Reading Note 4

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

Games can perform the function and representation of documentaries, but also reveal new information about reality that are difficult to represent in documentaries through interaction and participation. Documentary games are inherently reflexive and can build media literacy and cultural critique, which “get” more “real” than documentaries as representation of reality.

2. Play Super Columbine Massacre RPG! AND one of the short games listed below, then describe each game’s polemical point of view. Specifically how the game designers positioned the player’s role to make an effective point.

Super Columbine Massacre RPG! positioned players as the two shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, in an attempt to reflect on their motivations, and our own inner darkness shaped by society as a whole. By putting players in the eyes of these two killers, the evil side, we get to relive the event from the beginning of that day, experience their psychology, make choices according  to their thoughts and engage but disengage with the game at the same time. After playing this game, our understanding of the Columbine school shooting is deepened and redefined. Even though it is controversial to play as the killer of such tragic events, and it stands in between the risk of educating the wrong message, this game challenges us to introspect and self-reflect on our psychological position in society.

McDonald’s Videogame set players as the operator commander of McDonald’s and forces players to make some realistic choices that reflect our current problems, such as environmental problems, obesity, food poisoning etc. By playing the game and taking care of all four aspects of the operation, you will find that in order to profit, or just not bankrupt, we have to corrupt politicians, destroy rainforests, manipulate employees, add chemicals in crops and cows, etc. These are real world problems that we are suspecting McDonald’s doing, yet we find ourselves in that situation, making the same morally evil choices as those evil corporations. It places us at the centre of our own conflicts, to indulge ourselves in this lifestyle or do the morally right thing?

3. You’ve played some “polemical games” – 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 polemical games can be very effective in expressing a point of view, and invite the players to be reflective of our actions, society and many other problems that we are not aware of. These games place us in the eyes of whom we’ve never experienced, and challenges us to think about our decisions, and the outcome we caused. It might be more effective than documentary film our news report since those are passive delivery of a view point, but games are different in their interactivity and engagement, so that we are actively involved in these real world situations and enigmas that we will have a deeper understanding of the view point expressed. However there is the risk that because of the uncertainty of games, some people may get the message wrong and misunderstand the point the game wants to express, but in my opinion that makes the game more self-critical and controversial, which isn’t a bad thing for a rapidly spreading, mass medium.

Games are fun as long as they provoke us to make meaningful choices and give us immediate feedback, so I think many polemical games are fun in the way that they make us think more. It is definitely possible to play and be critical at the same time. In the case of Super Columbine Massacre RPG, players play as killers but are also disengaged with the roles they are playing because they are constantly criticizing their thoughts and actions, even though players are forced to make their decisions.

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 game is born out of documentary film, because they are both representations of reality through a point of view. The advantage of documentary game is that it’s not limited by the single point of view of the camera, and it can engage the viewers more by embedding interactivity into the experience and achieve a more comprehensive and holistic reflection of reality. Also, documentary films inevitably have to be in the third-person perspective, but games can be in first-person, third person, or any other perspectives you can imagine, which creates new perspectives into viewing the subject. Documentary films are very clear in their expression of a view point, and uses photography, video footage and narration to construct a clear experience of the real events. Documentary games are the 4-dimensional version of documentary films.