Reading Notes #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..)

Bogost and Poremba’s (B and P) essay takes the term “documentary” and fuses it with the game world. The overall statement that “documentary games reveal new knowledge about the world by exposing underlying systems and embedding participants that they are naturally reflexive and can build media literacy and cultural technique” demonstrates that games are a means to learning and therefore supportive of games being “real”. B & P state that documentaries can only represent one instance of the subject; providing a game that refers to the real world enables a legitimate claim to the reality of its representation. Using film terms, afilmic elements are parts of reality that are not included in filmic representation. In comparison, profilmic elements are parts of reality that are before the camera to make impressions on the viewer. Afilmic elements are sought after because it brings discovery and binds together the loose pages to create the overall story. It makes the reality of the subject real because of the support and information needed to understand the story. Grieson calls for observational power to bring forth new art forms because reality is deeper than the mere outcome of situation, aspects such as interpretation and analysis have significance in facts. Bill Nichols makes 5 points that make sufficient documentary quality for games that enter the documentary world:

  1. Procedural: structuring the subject by defined rules, it gives the impression of freedom but is constructed.
  2. Interactive: Embedded observance and situated reception
  3. Reflexive: documentary and critique of form is in tandem with players ability to deconstruct the rules of the system to master the game
  4. Generative: counter observational and is driven by real world data/processes
  5. Poetic: evokes mood, loose association, fragmented and subjective perception

These points call for cooperation between the situation and the participant and generates a response that affects the participant. The objective becomes fuses subjectivity which makes foreign facts real to the perceiver. When dealing with sensitive games such as JFK: Reloaded, or topics such as genocide, homicide, etc. the implications and the purpose of creating such games is significant; B & P state, “exposing the underlying systems at play, revealing alternate histories and embedding participants in these experiences is an entirely new model for preserving cultural memory, and not necessarily one willing to uphold the status quo” summarizes a bold approach at understanding why the realities are the way they are in history and how they become real to us as we step into the shoes of these documentary games. The importance of experiencing the real through games is that it enables participants to make implications not only about society at large but personally. What can be extracted from this experience? How will experiencing in a broad scale change the way we perceive and live out history? The games themselves may not seem “real” in the sense that it is physically tangible or happening in real time but the effects of what games teach us change our reality.

  1. 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.

In Super Columbine Massacre RPG!, the player takes on the roles of the two shooters. The polemical point of view of the game is taking on the identities of the Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold as they carry out the shooting. The player gets the understand the obstacles, thoughts, conversations, and strategies the shooters experienced on that day to fulfill their mission. It takes the player into the minds of the shooters and presents the dark perspective that people wouldn’t be able to experience. The player is also expected to handle the logistical side of the event such as the weapons needed to plan a mass murder.

The McDonalds game offers the inside scoop of what it is like to run a massive corporation and the corruption behind each aspect of it. From cultivating stock to the corporate side of fast food, the player bears the responsibility of optimizing business that comes with the cost of morality. It takes the player on a journey of realizing that once a company grows, the demand calls for faster and cheaper methods that leaves no option but to take shortcuts although it is immoral; some examples are using hormones to boost fat content of cows or bribing environmentalists and health officials.

  1. 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?

Now that I’ve experienced polemical games, I’m starting to understand that games don’t necessarily always have to be fun. The ability to interact and experience a kind of simulation of a world enables players to learn how certain environments and systems work. It is helpful to be critical and “play”/take on a role because we get to perceive what we cannot in our own circumstances. In the McDonalds game, it simulates very well the realities of the fast food industry that we wouldn’t be aware of simply because we are limited to a product without knowing the process. Exposure through simulation enlightens us to see in a smaller scale what is happening in reality. However, I do think polemical games must be used with caution. It might be an extreme case but enabling someone to understand the ins and outs of the shooting in Columbine through the game can provide unhealthy exposure that might produce negative effects.

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

The relationship between documentary game and film have similarities such as exposure in answering how something was done or why. The pursuit to be transparent (as much as a documentary can be) demonstrates a positive attitude in acquiring knowledge through accessible means. They tell the stories of real events and focus more on observational details. The details become significant and the outcomes are not the primary focus in understanding and accessing a situation. The game definitely includes interaction which films cannot offer. Games also offer the scope of possibilities that enables the player to have a realistic experience rather than a play by play of an event. Film offers a linear understanding of an event but provides the context and thorough explanation of the progress that leads to the outcome. Both are strong methods that offer advantages in accessing and perceiving with scope and detail.