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March 3rd, 2007, 17:40
Well, personally I think that games are a form of entertainment that isn't really suited to cope with topics like racism, slavery, religion, politics, etc. on a complex level. There are very few movies that are able to do that… so I seriously doubt a game could do it. There are a few series that tried to do it - Star Trek comes to mind - but as much as enjoyed watching an episode from time to time, their discussion of "mature" topics alwayas made me grin, and I just couldn't take it seriously. Most of these topics are just way to complicated to put them at the core of a game. Take religion for example… ask the political leaders of different religions how one should treat members of another religion - they will all tell you that you should treat them with respect and tolerance. Then have a look at the situation how it really is, and you'll see that it is just not that easy.
I fear that especially topics like religion, racism, culture, etc. would only be presented in an environment of political correctness that does not mirror realities. It also has some kind of educational touch that some people might reject. Personally I would feel very offended if a game tried to educate me.

As far as I understood Saywer, he really wants some in-depth discussion of such named themes, which does not only offer a black, and a white side, but also shades of grey. But I think that is fairly impossible. One who places themes like these at a core of a game will find himself, sooner or later, forced to voice an opinion. You might try to be objective, but I doubt you'll succeed since these are highly emotional topics. You cannot discuss the war in Iraq without giving an opinion… at least not for long. At least the danger of not being objective is always there.

Another problem is that games often take place in other worlds, universes, etc. Therefore complec topics could only be discussed on an allegoric or pseudo-perallel level. I consider that a very bad thing since the danger of simplification is obvious.

The main problem however lies in the mechanic of games itself. Games are interactive - they make you, the player, act. However, If you want to treat a topic with the necessary objectivity, you have to reduce your audience to be an observer. That's the point where action and the serious discussion of a theme collide. If you make a game about World War II and you really wanted to represent it in a serious and objective way, you cannot let the player run around shooting nazis.

I do reject Sawyer's argumentation that everything that doesn't place serious topics at the core of things is banal. Take novels like Sir Walter Scott's Rob Roy or Alexandre Dumas's 20 Years After. While these books do in fact touch on political themes, they never place them at the heart of the story. The main story IS often very simple, consisting of mainly love and adventure. But they also offer a solution to the mentioned problems above. You don't place slavery, religion, war, etc. at the core of a game but incorporate a game (with a trivial or not so trivial plot) into a setting which features such problems. Make a game that takes place in USA of the 17th or 18th century, and voila - there you got your slavery. But let the player decide for himself if he wants to find out about the topic or not.
Last edited by Ionstormsucks; March 3rd, 2007 at 18:59.
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