Tropes vs Women in Video Games – Part 3:Damsel in Distress

The third installment in the Tropes vs Women in Video Games series has been released today. I’m not going to say anything about it,  but here’s a brief description:

This is the third installment in our three part mini-series exploring the Damsel in Distress trope in video games. In this episode we examine the rare Dude in Distress role reversal and then take a look at the use of “ironic sexism” in retro inspired indie and mobile games. We conclude with an investigation of some titles that attempt to subvert or deconstruct the traditional damsel narrative.

Can Video Games Help Alleviate Dyslexia?

Can Video Games Help Alleviate Dyslexia?

A recent study out of the University of Padua in Italy found some interesting findings on the results that video games have on those with dyslexia.  The study, although very small, found that participants with dyslexia had their reading speeds increased after sessions of playing action-based video games. This begs the question: Can video games help kids with dyslexia improve their reading ability?

The Study: A research group at the University of Padua measured the improvements in reading scores of 20 kids with dyslexia after playing video games. One group had nine 80 minute sessions of playing an action-based video games, while the other group had nine 80-minute sessions of playing a non-action based video games. Essentially, one group played something akin to Sonic and one group played something akin to Professor Layton

Stay away from my dyslexic kids LAYTON!

The Results:

The study found that the kids who played action-based video games had their reading speeds increase moreso than those who played the non-action-based video game. Likewise, the scores outpaced the normal improvements children with dyslexia naturally gain over the course of a year. Thus, there seems to some evidence to suggest that playing action-based games that require a lot of shifting of attention may help kids with dyslexia improving their reading speed.

It can’t just be Krato’s menacing stare that is causing these improvements with action-based video games and not others. The researchers suggest that action-based video games hone visual attention skills, which are lacking in children with dyslexia. Action-based video games help hone these skills by constantly making the player shift their attention and focus in game. This could mean that children with dyslexia can actually benefit from scheduled playtime with games that are more action based. An issue for many parents with kids with dyslexia, the article points out, has been keeping their children’s interest in the programs meant to help alleviate dyslexia, an issue video games typically don’t have with kids.

Obviously more study will have to be done on this issue before anyone can call it definitive evidence, but it is interesting to say the least. I would be interested to see how video games rank in helping dyslexia compared to the gains found in organized programs, if such results are found. But who knows, maybe this is something parents with kids with dyslexia look into- they’ll be playing video games already most likely, so why not choose something a little more action based like Sonic or Mario Kart

Nintendo and Racial Under Representation

This is a picture of the character select screen from Super Smash Brother Brawl, a fighter featuring many of Nintendo’s main characters. You may notice it, but something is certainly lacking in this picture (No..It’s not MegaMan)

Nintendo has been in the video game industry for well over 30 years, and the number of franchises and characters they have created is unrivaled in the industry. However, Nintendo certainly has been slow to change on certain issues (Wi-Fi, DLC, Account Systems, hardware, etc). They’re by no means the most dynamic developer out there, despite revolutionizing the industry many times over. One issue that they seem to be trailing behind is that of racial representation in video games.

Let’s think for a moment: How many non-white Nintendo characters can you think of? How many characters of color? I can think of two: Doc Lewis from Punch-out, and maybe Ganondorf.

What gives Nintendo? Two characters out of hundreds, neither of whom are playable and one of which is a villain. There may be some characters in the Fzero universe, but who knows the characters outside Captain Falcon from Fzero? So we’re essentially left with zero, and there are certainly no protagonist who are non-white.

Another concerning issue comes from their lack of customization to include non-white players. For example, the recent Animal Crossing allows players to customize nearly every aspect of their character and city. One feature lacking is the ability to change or choose your characters skin tone. Gamers of colored have asked “Why can’t my character’s skin color match my own”?

It’s only recently that Nintendo has allowed players to choose between male and female, so why has an option for skin tone been missing from most games? Mii’s skin can be darkened or lightened, so why not in game? This isn’t isolated to Animal Crossing either, as games like Pokemon lack this ability as well.

Reasons Given for the lack of diversity:

“Most of Nintendo’s characters were created in the NES days, non-white characters would be more difficult to distinguish”

This excuse may have worked when Nintendo was first developing for arcades, but certainly the NES was powerful enough distinguish non-white characters. As I mentioned, Doc Lewis and several of the punch-out casts were characters of color, so it was certainly possible. Even McKids featured a non-white playable character. Is Nintendo really unable to do what McKids can? Regardless, Nintendo has had 20+ more years to make more characaters, and with expanding universes like the Zelda universe there’s no reason why Nintendo can’t create more diverse characters.

“Japan isn’t as diverse as we are”

I understand that Nintendo is a Japanese company, and racial diversity isn’t as big of a concern in Japan as is it here, but being one of the foremost worldwide gaming developers Nintendo has to consider a wider audience. Being a Japanese company hasn’t stop other developers from creating characters of color. Likewise, Nintendo’s mascot is an Italian plumber- I don’t think they’re letting region dictate their characters.

So there you have it. While I am singling out Nintendo, this issue goes far beyond the big N. Characters of color have traditionally been very underrepresented, and often misrepresented, in video games. Varying studies have been done on the representation of race in video games, and they hardly even come out too positive. As the video game industry progresses, it’s important that we demand diverse and interesting characters. Children who are non-white need positive heroes and protagonist just as much as their white peers.

Lessons on the Social World: Kirby

2012 Marked the 20th anniversary of everyone’s pink ball with an oral fixation: Kirby.  This week I finally got around to picking up the Kirby 20th anniversary collection, and playing through some of the games got me thinking. What is the Kirby franchise instilling on the world? What life lessons are we learning about the social world as we go around stealing other people’s abilities?

So that brings me to-

Lessons on the Social World: Kirby

With games spanning over two decades, Kirby has been a household name for sometime. I grew up playing his games- Kirby’s Adventure is still one of my favorite games of all time, and in my top 5 NES titles of all time. The franchise has always been one of unbridled happiness; there’s not a dark bone in it and the characters and settings ooze of pink silliness (That sounds terrible, actually).

EXPERIMENTATION

Kirby is a man..woman..puff ball… of many hats. The biggest gameplay quirk in the Kirby franchise comes from the ability to take enemies abilities and use them to your will.  Kirby can obtain abilities anywhere from wielding a sword to turning himself into a laser; if you can steal it, you can do it.  Some may say he’s a down right dirty stealer, who murders his victims and steals their best abilities. All of that is true. Kirby is a terrible monster, but it’s pretty fun to be a monster. One could theoretically go through out an entire game and only use Kirby’s basic abilities, but wheres the fun in that? Kirby teaches us that to get through life you have to take on many different roles and aspects; ya gotta be multifaceted. That’s a great lesson to learn. Learning how to go with the flow and take on roles as they come to you will serve our youth well.

OCCUPY DREAMLAND!

Kirby is a political activist, in case you didn’t know. He’s not getting bogged down in litigation or special interest; he’s taking his message to the streets! The original Kirby’s Dreamland tells the tale of our hero, Kirby, going after the tyrant King Dedede. Dedede has stolen all of dreamland’s food and is keeping it all for himself, so it’s up to Kirby to redistribute the goods to the people of Dreamland. Of course, through Kirby’s political maneuvering King Dedede eventually reaches across the aisle and sees the errors of his way, but whats this classic tale of a greedy king telling us? It’s social resistance, of course!  Kirby doesn’t stand by and just watch the powers that be take and take, he takes action and rebels! That’s a good lesson to learn, but hopefully it won’t lead our youth to distrust royal birds. The emperor penguin would be screwed.

You Gotta Suck to be The Best

Collaboration. Kirby teaches us that we gotta work together. Whether that means taking someone’s abilities, or working with your friends, the Kirby franchise is all about team work. Kirby is aided by his friends in many of his main outings, and they enable to take on bigger and better heists of powers and foods. Sure, Kirby’s friends aren’t exactly the type of company you’d care to keep- one is a fish that seems orally fixated on having Kirby in his mouth, one is a blog that seems to get some sort of weird fix out of rubbing her body all over Kirby, and one is an tyrant king who steals food from poor inhabitants and forces creatures in servitude. But hey, you gotta make strange bedfellows to get anywhere in this world. Also, sometimes it’s just good to rely on yourself…the many duplicate copies of yourself that is…I don’t know how that transfers over, other than maybe a promotion of cloning. We’re in strange ethical waters now..

Things are more serious in America

A more absurd takeaway from the Kirby franchise is in Nintendo’s promoting of the series via official artwork. Over the years, Nintendo of America has made some odd alterations to the official box arts design they receive from Japan, most notably is that they have switched an otherwise happy Kirby to an angry Kirby on several of the franchises box arts. Why? Who knows. Maybe NOA thinks Americans like their characters pissed. Or maybe there’s something about heading outside of Japan that just makes Kirby naturally angry. It could be that the boxarts just do it themselves; Kirby perhaps hates America! If there’s one thing that we can take away from all this is that America is a much more serious place than the whimsical land of Japan, where pink balls have the delight of going on adventures without anger or frustration. What a terrible land we live in that does this to creatures whom only want to suck and feast on the bounty of abilities in their way.

Other quick Lessons!

  • Eat what you want and when you want, even if that thing is alive and fighting.
  • Trees are can and will attack you.
  • Anything and everything can be used as a weapon, as long as it’s in your mouth.
  • Yarn is both epic and beautiful.
  • Eating strange things may give you powers.

So that’s it. I know this article was a little skimpy on the sociology and, well, anything redeeming, but I hope it was worth a smile or two. The Kirby games are great games, for young and old. They’re virtually harmless games, they’re great ways to introduce platformers to younger kids and casual gamers. So, here’s to another 20 years of the pink ball that couldn’t stop sucking.

Do Video Games Help Us Accept Failure?

We’ve all been there. If you’re a gamer, there’s a chance you’ve died. Not literally of course, because that would be silly. Video games test our skills, and more often than we would like to admit: we fail. We fail hard. I know I’ve had countless deaths at the hand of Robot masters, thousands of deaths in the Mushroom Kingdom, and more deaths you can imagine at the hands of Eggman. For most people, failure is a big no-no; we hate doing it, and when we do failure we take it hard. However, gamers are seemingly ok with failing in video games and, more often than not, the failure just makes them want to continue playing.

Ridiculously difficult games have always had their niche audience, but games that are exceedingly difficult have become far more popular this console generation with games like Dark Souls and Demon Souls promoting being the hardest of the hard. Are we masochists for playing these games? What about difficult games appeal to us? Shouldn’t we want to stay away from games that are difficult and make us fail more? Logically, yes. We logically should want to stay away from things that make us fail….And yet we don’t with video games. Why?

It could be that we perhaps enjoying failing. Maybe we’ve always secretly wanted to just lose to Donkey Kong Jr. in Super Mario Kart on the SNES repeatedly until the Cartridge stopped working, but we didn’t because it wasn’t socially acceptable. Sure, you could just pass it off as being bad at the game, but eventually people would get suspicious. Wondering why you, a grown man, couldn’t defeat the adolescent ape who is by far the slowest racer in the game. Things would also get confusing when you’d be miraculously better in Versus mode against your friends, so you’d pretend to lose to keep the lie going; anxiously hoping they don’t find you out for the perverse desire to lose to that tank top wearing ape that was constantly swilling through your mind. You could even try and go get help for this issue, but the looks and stares of the medical professional just makes you sick to your stomach. Eventually they’re moving out all of your stuff out of your room, seeking to find that hidden Mario Kart cartridge you have hidden away in the loose woodplank beneath your bed. “YOU’LL NEVER FIND IT!” you scream from your full body constraint, only to receive another injection of tranquilizer to calm you down. Muttering ” “DK Jr. Just likes the bananas” as you fade out of consciousness, you might even wonder if it’s all just one big trick devised by that dimwitted Donkey Kong……

What? Where was I?

Oh, failure in games. This paradox of why we typically avoid failure, and yet go to video games despite the fact that we often fail at them is what Jesper Juul evaluates in his recent essay “The Art of Failure: An Essay on the Pain of Playing Video games”  . Juul, an assistant professor at NYU’s Game Center,the most compelling video game program in the country, explores what he calls “paradox of failure”

I dislike failing in games, but I dislike not failing even more. There are numerous ways to explain this contradiction, and I will discuss many of them in this book. But let us first consider the strangeness of the situation: every day, hundreds of millions of people around the world play video games, and most of them will experience failure while playing. It is safe to say that humans have a fundamental desire to succeed and feel competent, but game players have chosen to engage in an activity in which they are almost certain to fail and feel incompetent, at least some of the time. In fact, we know that players prefer games in which they fail. This is the paradox of failure in games.

And that’s only the start of it! Is this a valid paradox? Furthermore, how does failing at video games shape us in the outside world? Does it make us more prone to failure? More okay with failing? These are all valid questions, some of which Juul touches on in his essay. He notes that we don’t like games that are too easy, which is true. Most gamers much rather play a game that’s overly difficult, like Ninja Gaiden, than games that are overly easy, like Pokemon Snap.

He describes people having a “separate rule” for video games, one in which people don’t adhere to the same regulations and attitudes in games as they would in real life. That’s certainly true, as if a partner of mine in the video game dies I don’t blink, but the same can’t be said for the real world. Separate rules for separate worlds. Seems fair. Juul is also very much aware that video game failures don’t come at the same cost as real world failures, so the stakes are much lower when one fails in the video game world. Of course this is a determining reason: knowing that you can take another stab at a problem, most of the times immediately in video games, makes failure a lot more comforting. I can imagine it wouldn’t go over too well if in their next game Bungie only allowed you to die once. Gamers wouldn’t be too happy and players would take their failures in the game much, much harder.

I have separate rules for separate worlds:you steal flowers from my flowerbed in the real world and I don’t care, you do it in Animal Crossing and I’ll send your nasty mail for weeks.

 

I don’t have too many answers on this topic, but Juul’s piece has made me rethink failure in video games. I don’t know if I view failure any differently because of being such an avid gamer, as failure in real life certainly stings, but certainly video games have made me fail quite a bit. If video games do make individuals view failure differently than non-gamers, then something tremendously sociological can be said about the impact that video games have on our socialization. Video games certainly do teach us lessons and ways of life, so perhaps it’s not too far fetched that Video games are teaching us how to deal with failure.

You can read an excerpt of Juul’s essay here!

It’s really interesting stuff. I say this because I both think it and hope to score brownie points with Juul for the sake of getting in NYU’s MFA program one day. Mostly the former…because he’ll never see this, and god help me if he did.

 

Media Molecule Studio Director: “It takes women working on games for games to change”

Media Molecule Studio Director: “It takes women working on games for games to change”

In a recent interview on BBC Radio, Media Molecule Studio Director Siobhan Reddy addressed the issue of gender in the gaming industry. For anyone who doesn’t know of Media Molecule’s work, they’re the studio behind the real-time sock puppet life-simulator that is “Little Big Planet”

“We have a lot of women within the industry who run studios and pack a mean punch, the influence of women within the industry is pretty great, but we need to see that on the game design and programming side as well.”

What Reddy refers to is the lack of female representation in gaming, be it through the lack of female protagonist or the lack of industry focus. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, with female gamers making up nearly 50% of the gaming population, it’s certainly time for the industry to take notice and start making accurate representation of females in games and making more games that appeal to females and both males and females.

Reddy herself is in a small majority, as most studios are still run by males and the gaming industry in general is a male dominated one.   She believes by empowering females to design and make games that the gaming industry will change for the better. We’ve certainly seen the call for this in other avenues, such as the girl scouts promoting young girls to design video games.

“It takes women working on games for games to change. I know there are all sort of discussions about where it is now and where it has been but I’m interested in where it’s going… particularly like the type of things we’re making at Media Molecule and lots of other studios are making, games which are for both genders and all ages.”

So who knows, will these call for more females to enter the gaming workforce make for diverse and fair games? One can hope. Meanwhile, we can all make our Sackboys as awesomely feminine as we want.

Neat.

 

Study shows Motion Controlled Video Games Make For Less Aggression

Study shows Motion Controlled Video Games Make For Less Aggressioon

Pacific Standard explored a recent study that evaluated the amount of aggression that varying types of Video games produced in players. For the sake of this article, we’re going to pretend like that the link between video games and aggression is completely valid. It certainly does seem that video games can at least stimulate the aggression sensors in brain, but no conclusive evidence has shown that video games necessarily create aggression or violence (Correct me if I’m wrong)

Let’s look at this here study!

The study, conducted by a research team out of Penn State Altoona, measured the amount of aggression created when gamers use  motion controls and when gamers used traditional analog control.

The Altoona mascot tells people to stuff it!
The Altoona mascot tells people to stuff it!

The results were surprising. Despite what many might expect, video games that used motion controls actually led to less aggression than those with traditional analog control. That means your Wii and Kinect are seemingly less likely to make you go postal! Super!

The research team went about the feat by making players play games like “Punch-Out” on the Wii with either the game’s motion controlled option or traditional analog option. After playing the game for an extended period participants were given a test to measure their aggression. In one of the exercise,participant were asked to finish words and their responses were measured for aggression. For example, a participant could answer either finish a “KI” with either LL or SS. Those who wrote Kill instead of Kiss were judged more aggressive. Not the greatest indicator of aggression, but whatever.

“One potential explanation is that motion-capture technology is more cathartic than analog video-game play”…. “A related explanation is that motion-capture technology requires greater physical expenditure. There is evidence that people are less violent after short periods of exercise or exertion.”

That makes sense. Exercise and a physical activity have been known to decrease aggression for sometime, so it’s only natural that games that make you move more than normal would have the same effect. I know I’m much more in favor of breaking someone’s leg after playing Mario than I am after playing Kinect Sports. The study goes onto propose that games with motion controls negate the amount of aggression produced in violent video games, making the amounts of aggression closer to those created in non-violent video games. So, maybe it’s just the Goombas that are making me angry.

What does this mean for all those naysayers of video games.

“Contrary to the fears of industry critics, this research suggests that newer technologies, which create a more realistic experience, will not necessarily increase aggression in video game players”

At least if they have motion controls.. Separate studies will have to be conducted on whether more realistic games produce more aggression than less realistic games. For example, would a violent PS2 title have the same levels of aggression production as a PS4 title because of the added realism? QUESTIONS TO BE ANSWERED MY FRIENDS. With new waves of researchers entering the field, ones who grew up with consoles and pc games in the home, slowly but surely we’ll begin seeing better designed studies and research experiments.

Study using Kinect’s Nat Geo TV didn’t lead to aggression, only confusion and nightmares.

I’m not presenting this article as infallible, as I have plenty of questions not answered by the study’s abstract or the Pacific Standard piece (I’m not going to buy the pdf). I do think it is interesting that this form of research hasn’t really been done before, especially since it makes logical sense. With the violence and video games being such a big controversy, it’s interesting when researchers step outside of the constantly studied questions and explore other avenues.

Club Nintendo Rewards: Why We Care

Image

Today Club Nintendo released their 2012-2013 year prize list for members who had registered enough Nintendo products to make their way into their gold and elite membership statuses. Platinum and Gold members get to choose one free gift, as a thank you from the big N. This is of course in addition to the prizes members can redeem year round for “coins” earned by registering products.

This rewards program got me thinking, as it’s quite the ingenious program that Nintendo has created. Essentially Nintendo is giving incentives beyond the games themselves for purchasing their products and often times these rewards come in the way of free p. Why do so many gamers care about these types of rewards program? Is it just for the free swag, or is there more at work?

Personal bias upfront: I think the Club Nintendo rewards program is awesome. I already buy a lot of Nintendo games because I generally enjoy most of their games, so being further rewarded for registering games I already own is a nice addition. Plus, their rewards are generally pretty nice. About a year ago I used some of my built up coins to get their 3-set of 25th anniversary posters for the Legend of Zelda, and they’ve made amazing additions to my apartment. In fact, I even framed one of them.

 

 

Why do we care?

Yes, it’s partly because of the free merchandise. Ok, mostly. But let’s look at Club Nintendo from a more sociological perspective, mainly because I’m bored and killing time.

Club Nintendo is great example of Social Exchange theory. Economist and psychologist probably can express it better, but essentially SET says that society is a series of social interactions in which people determine their outcome by rewards gained vs. negatives lost. Basically laid out, the thought process behind most interactions can be shown by this equation.

Interaction/Behavior/Act = The Positives or Benefits of the act – The negatives or costs of the act.

GLABIDYGLOOOK, I know. When applied to Club Nintendo it goes something like this: Registering a Product in Club Nintendo = Free rewards from Nintendo – The time and effort it took to register the product. If someone deems there to be more positive outcome from registering a product with Nintendo, then they’ll most likely do that action. So if someone can’t stand to take the 5 minutes to fill out a Nintendo survey, then the free rewards that Nintendo is offering aren’t worth the social act.

This all sounds like common sense, so why am I even taking the time to spell it out? I don’t know. But the theory also goes on to hypothesize that it’s social acceptance and acknowledgement that makes people deem something positive or negative. Like gamer scores or PSN trophies, registering Nintendo games on Club Nintendo is acknowledgement of a task; a badge of honor if you will. Thus gamers are seeking acknowledgement from the Big N in someway when they register their products. Neat O.

What does this say about us gamers?

We like being acknowledged, either by our peers or our developers. Hey, that’s not too bad. Being acknowledge is nice after all, and when companies acknowledge their fanbase it makes for better games. Then again, maybe systems like Club Nintendo are merely way to appease rather than acknowledge, but that’s not for me to decide.

In the end, I just wanted to talk about Club Nintendo. I’m pretty excited for these 2013 rewards. I got the three poster set, and they’re looking to be pretty snazzy. So…Thanks for the indulgence.

 

Games to Celebrate Independence Day With

Video games like other forms of media attempt to, in some way, mirror society. (Hang in here with me, this is my attempt to justify this piece) While video games are probably the most far-removed from mirrors of society of all the media forms, they still reflects many aspects of society and values. That’s not to say plumbers murdering turtles and gaining super powers from plants and mushroom is an accurate depiction of society, but even in games like Super Mario can we see aspects of society. Or values are their values, even when it seems the most obscure. We as a society like to find days of significance to celebrate and have fun. Thus, it’s only natural that games celebrate holidays just like we do in society.

So I bring you today: Games to Celebrate Independence Day with

Animal Crossing (Series)

Probably the best way to celebrate independence day in game is with the Animal Crossing series. Because the series works off an internal clock and calendar, it knows when holidays and special events take place. Typically, depending on the holiday, the characters in-game will do something special like give you gifts or have a special event like a fire-works show. Of course, since the game a global game it doesn’t exactly call independence day by its name, but instead “Fireworks show day”. You’ll see no flag wave or BBQ have from these animals. Note: the latest installment, New Leaf, will not hold a fireworks show on July 4th. Instead, the game will have Fire-Works day later in the summer. Sucks, I know.

Sid Meier’s Colonization (PC)

Like Independence Day, but want to celebrate it more in a historical sense? Then Colonization is for you! Released on the PC in 1994 as a follow-up to Civilization (Also remade apparently) the game lets you take the role of either the British or American settlers up to gaining Independence. The game makes you work for it however, as you’ll have to deal with trading routes and native populations (There’s nothing quite like celebrating America by decimating Native populations), as well as getting your settlement off the ground correctly.

 

Metal Wolf Chaos (Xbox)

Feel those games were just a bit too girly? Want a game that will make you bleed red white and blue from your eyes as you fail to comprehend how and why the game you’re witnessing was made. Well Metal Wolf Chaos is for you! Developed by From Software, developer of such games as Demon Souls and Armored Core, this hyper patriotic game never made its way to the United States. I’m not going to lie, I’ve never played it, but it sounds to be the most absolutely ridiculous and awesome game in one. Sedt in the near future, you take the role of the President of the United State that has been the attack of attempts to usurp his position. After narrowly escaping the White House in his mech suit (Yeah, that’s what I said) he attempts to regain control of the country from an administration that reigns terror and even slavery.  We could analyze this game all day, but it’s essentially Mechs, patriotism and explosions the game. While it doesn’t directly celebrate Independence Day, it will give you such a patriotic overload that you’ll feel like waving a flag and gouging out your eyes.

Independence Day (Playstation 1)

Based on the 1996 film in which Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith seemingly stop an alien invasion with a lot of yelling and kabooms, the PSX title Independence Day is a great way to celebrate any 4th of July. Why you may ask? Because Aliens hate freedom…Well at least the ones in the movie did. With each alien ship you shoot down a tear of pure American freedom will fall down your cheek.  But really, it’s actually not a great game. But if you’re really hankering for some pseudo- Will Smith, 4th of July having action, then maybe give it a shot.

 

 

So there you have 4 games that you can celebrate the holiday with. Sit back, eat some BBQ, water your lawn, blow up pieces of glass, (or whatever normal Americans do on the 4th of July) and enjoy some very applicable games.

Video Game Dev. to Show Consequences of Guns in Game

Video Game Dev. to Show Consequences of Guns in Game

Anyone who has played a video game has most likely fired an in game gun. From Megabusters to in-game replicas of real life guns, shooting has become a mainstay in video games. However, not many video games show the real consequences of gun usage besides “splat, there goes his head”. This is where this project comes in. The game, tentatively called Gun Factory, hopes to show players how and where guns are made, as well shown them  the unforeseen consequences of overproduction of guns has on a global scale. Hopefully you’re not asleep yet.

Being developed by a summer program at Concordia University, the game is one of four projects seeking to turn video game conventions on their head. The game puts you in charge of a factory that is manufacturing guns and then goes on to show you the consequences that over-production of guns causes globally. This is an attempt to educate gamers on the real consequences that guns have on the world. It’s a novel idea, as video games and guns have a very confusing history:

Things Video Games have taught players through the ages:

  • 1920s: Carnival shooting galleries make kids really hate clowns and inanimate objects.
  • 1985: Duck Hunt teaches players that the only consequences of firing guns are killing birds and dogs laughing at you.
  • 1993: Yoshi Safari shows kids that riding dinosaurs and shooting guns at the same time are not incompatible.
  • 1994: Virtua Cop teaches players that emotional trauma is not a thing for hostages.
  • 2005: Shadow the Hedgehog teaches kids that small forest creatures are gun ready and willing.
  • 2007: Portal shows that guns can solve any problems, including puzzles!

“The actual idea is about how profiteering works, and it shows that as you develop more guns it doesn’t really solve the world’s problems.”

Sure they do. Hungry? Eat a gun. Too small to reach something? Fire a gun at it. Gun stuck on your other gun? Shoot it. Joking aside, this is an important idea to learn, but are video games really the right medium? The developers sure think so, but that won’t stop many gamers from either not playing the game or not knowing that it even exists.

The game follows in the footsteps of other culture awareness games like “Get Water”, a game about collecting water in areas in which water is scarce. Don’t remember that game? Probably because not many people have played it. These types of games are interesting and compelling, but not to the majority of gamers. While the article conveys that the developers are very much trying to make “fun” the backbone of the game, in a medium where most regular games don’t see many sales or plays, games like Gun Factory and Get Water are almost surely doomed.

But maybe there’s hope in festivals and showings like Games For Change, an annual festival that shows off these types of culturally aware games. Games featured on their website include “Priviledge: The Game of Economic Inequality” and “NarcoGuerra” a game in which you play as the Mexican authorities trying to break-up the drugwar. Clearly these games aren’t Mario and Halo, but perhaps they’re fun (I haven’t tried them out).

With Gun control being a hot-button issue for most Americans, it’s unlikely that games like Gun Factory are going to sway anyone’s opinion, but certainly it might educate gamers on a lesser side of guns’ effects. And hey, people conveying social issues through video games is a neat idea- It worked for Katamari Damacy teaching about waste control, and Harvest Moon for agricultural studies.