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..)

Bogost and Poremba discuss the ways in which digital games can possess “documentary” like features in their paper, “Can Games Get Real?” They argue ways in which the term, “Documentary games” can work and cannot work, or if documentary games even exist. They discuss the differences the term “documentary” refers to in film and video games, and how documentary games can contain an educational purpose. The paper argues that “Documentary film can only represent one instance of the subject”, whereas, “Digital media can also simulate situations difficult to deconstruct or follow visually.” Documentary games should focus more on the simulation of the situation than that of the setting and environment. They use the game, “JFK Reloaded”, as an example. This game places the player in the shoes of Lee Harvey Oswald and simulates the many possible outcomes that could have occurred during the assassination and how the player can actually, “recreate the event”, whereas, a documentary will only give you the individual facts of what happened that day. Documentary games have an “aha” moment where the player is learning something new and making connections in the situation that they are put in which helps to support the idea that games do have a documentary quality to it.

The paper also argues that game documentaries are able to represent the core system of a subject where documentaries are just “a representation of the way the subject is constituted.”

Bogost and Poremba discuss the forms of Documentary games; Procedural, Interactive, Reflexive, Generative, and Poetic.



2. Play Super Columbine Massacre RPG!ANDone 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!

  • In this game you play as the infamous Eric Harris, and Dylan Klebold from the Columbine shooting in Colorado. When playing as these people you must worry about every little thing. Whether it be students or cameras in the hallways you must watch out or else you’ll get caught. From this point of view it goes to show how much time and effort went into planning the massacre. It also puts you in the minds of the Eric, and Dylan showing you their thought processes and why they chose to go down such a dark path. The shooting is a very sensitive subject and to recreate the real violence that occurred at a High School on American soil is considered taboo.


JFK Reloaded

  • This game places you in the shoes of Lee Harvey Oswald. The point of the game is to recreate the assignation of John F Kennedy as closely as possible. The creators of the game wanted to make a statement about the assignation of JFK and the conspiracies of the event. They wanted to show that in a computer simulation of the event the evidence that was collected during the investigation is actually quite conceivable, though still very difficult to recreate.


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?

Polemical games have a great potential to express a point of a view on a certain situation. Games are inherently immersive and provide an extensive structure that the subject can be laid upon. Games allow the subject to be viewed from many different perspectives either portraying diverse views or a single view. The possibilities are virtually endless. Polemical games do not get in the way of fun unless the design of the game itself is fundamentally not fun. Learning about a subject can be experienced and meshed into a game well enough to avoid the monotony of learning. It is possible and helpful to be play and be critical while playing a polemical game. I feel that the experiences when playing a polemical/documentary game can be more compelling than games are not.


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

A documentary film is from a single perspective and is presented as true without allowing the audience to form any opinions of their own. A documentary game can observe a subject from all angles. A game creates a 3-dimentional space in which a player can roam free and experience a subject where as a film is a 2-dimentional, linear story that only allows the user to go as deep as the film allows. In a game you must be engaged for the story to continue, whereas when watching a documentary you must focus and pay attention to the story or else it will go on without you.