Reading Response 4

1. Summarize the arguments made in paper re the main questionposed (You know the one that is the title of the article..)

This article talks about documentary, or documentary-inspired, games. It compares and contrasts documentaries in games to those in other mediums. He talks a lot about lens based mediums, especially film, as this is the most prolific and known form of documentary. In the end, his main argument for “Can Games Get Real?” is yes, but he is hesitant to say that they’ve already reached a documentary format in their own right. The properties that inherently are part of a documentary are difficult to transfer to an interactive experience. Interested game designers still need to work out better ways to adapt a documentary game, where the documentary aspect is the main component, as opposed to a side thing or skin for a game.

2. Next week well play some “polemical games” and you can judge first hand but in the meantime – whats is your opinion of the potential (or lack there of) of games as a medium for expression a point of view? does this “get in the way of the fun” ? is it possible/helpful to play and be critical at the same time?
I think games are inherently capable of expressing a point of view in a powerful way. Digital games especially can have the player literally seeing from the point of view of someone, so the potential to show opposing perspectives is pretty much endless. One particularly powerful moment in a game that I remember is in a Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 mission where you are an undercover agent and you are slaughtering innocent civilians with a Russian militant group. Although, this isn’t a real event, it’s interesting to imagine how a similar technique could be used to show a powerful and real narrative. This is similar to the JFK assassination game mentioned in the reading. I am a little more hesitant to say that the potential is as high for board games. I think political agendas and points of view can be expressed, but creating a powerful documentary narrative seems near impossible.
3. Please describe examples of games that you felt had a strong political / polemical point of view?

The aforementioned Call of Duty game sort of does, although I think the designers were just trying to craft an “Action Movie” type narrative. However, other shooting games, especially highly realistic simulations often feel like they are recruiting tools. I know the military often does a lot of consulting on these types of games, probably due to the fact that they lead to so many gains in recruitment. I recently read an article about how the workout regimes at boot camps are being modified since so many new enlistments are couch potato gamers.

4. How do you see the relationship between “documentary game” and “documentary film” ? what are the limitations / advantages of each medium in this context?

Documentary films are the epitome of what a documentary is. Therefore, many conventions of the documentary come from the film medium. However, lens-based mediums are very different from the virtual or imaginative ones of games. This is where things are inherently different. In film, the documenter can literally point a camera and record an event. In gaming the event needs to be made, presumably after studying the actual thing that happened. Most importantly, in gaming the player has to be able to partake in the event. This is the largest difference between the two mediums; the interactivity. This is both a blessing and a curse, because too easily the interactivity can overshadow the actual event, making it feel merely like a “narrative skin” as opposed to a game trying to make a point or show a point of view.

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