Archive for Politics

‘Leaky World’ game aspires to explain the philosophy of WikiLeaks

Earlier this month, the Wikileaks Stories project invited independent game developers to turn leaked documents into playable computer games (c.f. Storytelling 2.0: Exploring the news game).

And now for the first complete game submission! Leaky World: a Playable Theory is, its developers explain, an interactive illustration of Julian Assange’s 2006 essay “Conspiracy as Governance.”

As a demonstration, Leaky World conveys how information travels among nations, but also how too much centralization (imperialism?) permits these informational “leaks.” And because uncontrolled leaks will eventually result in radicalized dissent from the unwashed masses, the leaked headlines must be squelched as fast as possible by severing diplomatic ties between nations. I think? Is that what is going on?

As a game, Leaky World is high-speed connect-the-dots. Aesthetically it resembles an Introversion game, probably because of the world map and the metaphors and all the stress.



Super Mario Used to Shoot Bullets

“Violence has always been and remains a central interest of humankind and a recurrent, even obsessive theme of culture both high and low. It engages the interest of children from an early age, as anyone familiar with the classic fairy tales collected by Grimm, Andersen, and Perrault is aware. To shield children right up to the age of 18 from exposure to violent descriptions and images would not only be quixotic, but deforming; it would leave them unequipped to cope with the world as we know it.”

—9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, California 2009, quoting Judge Richard A. Posner, 2001

edit: Thanks, SLS and Reddit!

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Memewatch: This is no place for politics!

...but I just couldn’t help myself.

(Your politics may vary.)

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POW Bros: the medium is the message

First of all, I absolutely cannot believe I missed this. For anyone else who missed it: last week, games journalist (and, full disclosure, friend) Jared Rea made a video poking fun at John McCain’s “Prisoner of War” campaign angle.

I love that this is the web 2.0 equivalent of a political cartoon, tailored to suit the tastes of video game enthusiasts.

Obviously, the video went viral—so viral, in fact, that it was actually picked up by the Crooks and Liars blog. “Probably the most juvenile thing I’ve ever seen on this site,” snipes the very first commenter. I cackled aloud when I read this remark.

But let’s say that, instead of a video about video games, Crooks and Liars had posted a political comic strip, and in that strip, McCain is playing Poker or Go Fish or Uno with his political opponents. And say that McCain, in this game, keeps playing a ‘POW’ card. Let’s say that happened. Would that commentary be considered “juvenile”?

But then, and for me this is maybe the most interesting part, Jared found himself defending his work on his home turf, right there in his blog’s own comments. Now, to be fair, plenty of folks were impressed with the video’s astute, if spectacularly silly, shorthand analogy. But a lot of people are uncomfortable when video game iconography is used as a metaphor for current events, it would seem (as we saw earlier this month).

One man expressed his distaste, going so far as to lambast Jared, in the comments section, for “making a political message thinly veiled with a video game shell, when you are first and foremost an entertainment writer. What does any of this [have] to do with video games?”

Is Jared, as “an entertainment writer,” obligated to conceal his political bias?

More to the point, though, I’ve seen this particular complaint pop up at several mainstream video game sites, and especially at those sites where editors are permitted to post to blogs. Hey! You review video games! What gives you the right to talk about politics, current events, war, or culture? Or, and I’ve seen this argument around, Hey! I come here to talk about fun stuff! Knock that off!

I wonder with what frequency critics of other media—movie critics, for instance, or music reviewers, or book critics—are accused of doing the same. I do think it’s somewhat strange, and a little disheartening, that even fellow gamers are suspicious of politics-and-gaming’s overlap.

Is the consensus, even within our own gaming culture, that the medium of games is too lowbrow for the projection of potentially engaging metaphors?

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NeoGAF: serious political business

The other day, screenwriter and video game enthusiast Larry Madill was sifting through the NeoGAF forums. He was reading a discussion thread, itself in response to Denis Dyack’s recent comments about NeoGAF—yes, game industry news is an ouroboros—when Madill spied a peculiar banner ad just beneath the thread’s subject line.

Now, when I visit NeoGAF, all I can see is a Toyota advertisement powered by Doubleclick. But the proof is in the pudding, I suppose, and Mr. Madill captured a screenshot of said pudding:

Larry Madill’s screenshot of the McCain-funded political ad

The banner ad depicts presidential candidate Barack Obama alongside Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran. Perhaps the ad contains notes of racial and cultural scaremongering; Madill, an Obama supporter, found it offensive. The ad’s text reads, “Is it OK to unconditionally meet with anti-American foreign leaders?” The text is supplemented by two ‘buttons’, Yes and No, although the banner itself is obviously a flat click-through image.

This detail actually made me giggle. The question of when and how to negotiate is obviously a polarizing one. This is a very serious, somber campaign advertisement, but it posits its little quiz question in true Myspace Banner Ad form (“Who is this party girl? A. Lindsay B. Britney C. Tara”). And if you’re wondering, John McCain’s campaign takes the credit for the ad in its bottom right corner.

Not that any of this really matters. Whether or not the ad itself is tasteless, one fact remains: Larry Madill spotted it on NeoGAF, a game industry discussion forum.

Madill writes,

Either the management of NeoGAF is grossly incompetent and doesn’t know whose ads they are running, or [they] have a blatant political point of view that they are content on advocating through advertising. [...]

But exposing simple incompetence isn’t enough for me. For a site that counts members from major game developers and console makers to video game journalists and the average gamer, NeoGAF needs to be held accountable for playing politics instead [of] playing games.

Is this a reasonable assessment? Certainly politics do play a part in many videogame discussions—not that this little banner ad is the same thing, even by a long shot, since I doubt NeoGAF is aware that the site is running the ad at all. Should websites and other media be held accountable for the advertisements they run? And even if this really were deliberate on the part of NeoGAF, are publishers and editors obligated to pretend they are unbiased when discussion turns to something other than games? When a game critic blogs about politics rather than games, for instance, oh, how the complaints pour in.

In his blog post, Madill also wonders what nefarious shadow entities stake a claim in NeoGAF’s ownership. I wondered, too. A little research reveals that the owner is none other than some dude in his mid-twenties.

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