The article discusses the creation of some contemporary “games” that refer to subjects, events or places in the real world, often called “documentary games.” This includes games like Call of Duty. The questions that are posed are whether or not these are “appropriate” for a medium used for fun, and if there is any relation between these and their film-based counterparts. Some people have chosen to label their games as “documentary-style.” Definitions of documentaries as a form of film were heavily discussed, allowing the reader to draw similarities and relevant ideas to the world of games. The biggest point is that documentaries capture real life events, experiences and emotions, so documentaries must simulate real life events, experiences, and emotions. One advantage that games may have over documentary film is that they can explore other potential instances framed in the same context.
There are a couple areas where I feel that games can really excel: fun and experience. Some games are created for the sole purpose of fun – the player plays a game from a not-so-real perspective and controls the game for their own enjoyment. Starcraft, for example, does not embody an experience, as it doesn’t place the player in the shoes of one of the soldiers. Other games attempt to engross the player in an experience; allowing the player to feel or do something they may no have been able to do in real life, whether it be realistic or absolutely fantastic. Call of Duty attempts to give the player a sense of what it may be like to be a soldier, regardless of whether or not it’s a realistic experience. These “experience” games may be fun, but I don’t think they have to be. It’s these games that I think would serve well to give a “point of view”, though they can certainly be achieved in other ways as well. When playing from the perspective of someone or something, the experience can be exaggerated in any way the designer pleases. In this way, the player can still enjoy the engrossing experience, and come a way with a sense of political perspective or otherwise as the character they were playing as.
Dead Space is one game that handles the point of view element really well. The game is played from the perspective of an engineer aboard a spaceship that is writhing with mutated humans called “necromorphs.” While this in itself does not seem like it could hold any kind of relevant real world point of view, the narrative and dialogue throughout the game takes stabs and generally drives the user against the religious extremism that caused the entire mess in the first place. The “Unitology” religion dictates that the necromorphs are the highest form of life and that all humans should be transformed into them as their next state of being and people take this religious view so seriously that it begins to dismantle the society on the ship. Looking at this more globally, it can be applied to nearly all real-world religions that have extremist believers.
Red Faction,while I haven’t played very much of it, can be seen as having a point of view. The player is put in the place of a miner who is part of an uprising against his oppressors on Mars. The miners are treated poorly – like slaves – even though they were technically supposed to be employees and they signed up for the job. Throughout the game the player has to take on the Mars society police equivalent as you attempt to overthrow this organization (I assume). Naturally, this can be seen as a view against overbearing organizations, companies, or governments.
I find it difficult to relate both the film and game versions of the “documentary” genre. I have a hard time calling a game a “documentary”, but maybe that’s because I’m accustomed to it being used a term in a film. They seem so fundamentally different, though I suppose that they would exist for nearly the same purpose. Both mediums can certainly inform the user of a topic, and I suppose this is what a documentary is fundamentally about. Seeing that games are meant to entertain, though, and the user has so much control, I find it difficult to believe that the game would be able adequately and objectively portray information every time. Having played games myself and seen the lengths that people go to “break” a game’s world, I can’t help but think that the same would happen in documentary-style game as well. This ability for the user to control the content and take advantage of inevitable glitches or holes in the game’s code would, I would think, drastically diminish the message or information that is supposed to be conveyed, where as a film documentary is displayed the same way properly every time. At the same time, though, I suppose the film equivalent of breaking a game would simply be standing up and leaving the theater. At the same time, though, games can give the user a more intimate and personalized and individual experience based on their interactions while still feeding information to the user. This also allows the designer to explore different possibilities on a smaller scale in various contexts, something a film cannot do.