Monday, February 10, 2014

By Jamaal Ryan

At last week’s DICE Summit, Gilman Louie spoke about the “culture battle around gaming” and how the game’s industry is misunderstood as a vice of America society. In the wake of 2012’s Sandy Hook school shooting, video games was unjustifiably thrusted to the top as one of the primary contributors of mass killings above an arguably unaddressed gun regulations system.

And while ESA president Mike Gallagher claims that the industry as a whole has made efforts to blossom a positive image, including the ESA’s contributions in scholarships, sponsorships, and career exploration, the fact of the matter is, as Louie alluded to when speaking to Polygon, games’ positive stance is being snuffed out by negative reception by the general public.

But as naïve the perception is on video games, the medium has produced and continues to produce positive contributions to society.

Last week I wrote a piece on If You Can’s “IF…” an iOS RPG set to coach young children on the basic dynamics of emotional intelligence. This is hardly games’ first effort to educate youngsters as edutainment has, just as effective yet mis-fitting as the term itself, clashed together academic curriculum with simple game mechanics. Math Blaster is the easiest recall that comes to many a mind.

Nintendo has had few but successful breakthroughs with quality of life software with Brain Age and Wii Fit. Though each has had a limited presence thanks to minimal iterations, fitness titles and brain training games are not short in supply from other publishers. But with Nintendo’s new initiative on quality of life with “un-wearable” implementations, Nintendo can have just as big if not bigger impact health and cognitive betterment.

Harder to see, but equally important, are interactive experiences geared towards adults. Over the weekend, I had the privilege of watching Playing Columbine, a documentary by film maker Danny Ledonne who’s responsible for the highly controversial game Super Columbine Massacre RPG! It contains fascinating discussions on the potential of the medium outside the traditional game image.

Games such as 911 Survivor allow players to imagine the emotional agony that workers experienced having to jump out of the burning twin towers to their inevitable deaths. September 12th , related in topic to 911 Survivor, gave players a different perspective on the war on terror as the player can bomb a Middle Eastern village, hearing the sobbing of its denizens as terrorists numbers increase.

Ledonne’s very own SCMRPG! put players in the shoes of the killers at Columbine High as they kill students and teachers in their wake. The purpose of the game, as difficult as it is to experience, was to make players think about the motivations of the shooting rather than be a power fantasy in it.

Video games has proven to be an unparalleled art form creating story telling experiences, health and wellness coaching, social interaction experiments, and provocative topics for discussion. People may not see it, but video games are well armed to win this “culture battle”. 

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