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..)

The main argument of this article is whether or not a game can be considered as something that can be taken seriously. The article emphasizes whether a game can be labeled and defined as ‘documentary’, as compared to traditional documentary films, without losing it own properties of its medium. A clear comparison between those two genres and how they overlap is also explained throughout the paper. One of the documentary film’s affordances is ‘transparency’, which according to the article, “closes the perceived distance between the subject and recorded images.” But it can only “represent one instance of the subject” meaning that we as an audience, would not be sure that what we see in the film is the actual “definitive moment”. Bogost and Pomela further discuss the five modes to define documentary game (by referring to Bill Nichols’ forms of cinematic documentary and reinterpreting those modes) as:

Procedural (Nichols’ expository mode) – structuring the subject in a rhetorical frame by defined rule structure

Interactive (participatory mode) – passive (embedded observance, the documentarian) and active (situated reception, the audience viewing documentary) aspects of this mode, but players can become both participant and observer in games

Reflexive – game documentary has strong potential in this mode, players can deconstruct the rules to master the game

Generative – counterpart to the observational mode, this mode is harder for games but could be that game is driven by real-world data or processes

Poetic – design aspect to evoke mood, loose association (both fragmented and subjective perception)

The article sums up with whether or not we can substantiate that documentary game can “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 critique,” which I personally agree with their statement.

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.

Columbine Massacre RPG! is a role playing game where you play in the role of the two shooters based on high school shooting in 1999. The polemical point of view of this game was mainly to explore the shooters’ motivation. I felt very uncomfortable and disturbed while playing this game. Though understand that the creator of the game was trying to empathize with the shooters, and somewhat trying to humanize them through this game. I felt like I had to witness the scene that I did not want to witness and as the same time trying to understand what the shooter is thinking at the same time.

Paper Please’s polemical point of view I think is to emphasize the issue of foreign immigrants vs first world country’s border control. As a foreign immigrant myself, I have had the experience multiple of times entering the US border and was treated poorly by the customs officers. In this game you play as the officer who will make a decision whether one immigrant is allowed to enter the country or not. Each day in the game there are various warnings and cautions that the officer must take into account before granting each individual the permission to enter such as terrorist attack, uprising, etc. At the end of the day, the officer gets the salary based on how many immigrants approved without problems. Some money is also deducted off of the pay if some mistake was made. The game is about balancing between the responsibility as a customs officer and a regular person who also has a family to look after.

3. You’ve played some “polemical games” – what 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 game is considered another way to express one’s thoughts/feelings towards something without having to say it right out to the audience what how they feel (this is just for the experience of the game being played by people without them reading the artist’s statement, objective of the game, etc.). To answer whether or not does this get in the way of fun, I personally think that it depends on the particular topics or subject matters that the game represents. If the topic is something that’s serious or heavy, it might be hard to play that game and have fun at the same time. But on the other hand, if the topic is right (well to call something right and others wrong is not really how it works, I’m just talking about balancing in game design), and the game mechanics are well designed, it shouldn’t take away the fun (or flow) of the game. It may not be entertained to play (like when I played Super Columbine Massacre RPG! ), but if the game flow is great, then at least players should be able to find some fun in playing documentary game or be enlightened in some way.

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

I think those two medium are closely related. With background in story telling, one particular form of work can either be entertaining or enlightening, or both at the same time. Both documentary game and documentary film have overlapping qualities to be all of those mentioned. A lot of documentary films were made to educate, raise awareness, or unfold the ugly truth about something, but the audience is limited only to viewing the it, maybe learning and absorbing the given information about that particular topic, and maybe—to the extent of feeling sympathy or even empathy with something, but I think that is about for documentary film. Documentary game, however, is interactive; the audience now becomes players, and depending on how the game design is, they get to role-play different characters in that game. For example, when I played McDonalds Videogame, I take the role of the gigantic corporation who runs this company and trying to make as much profit as possible. In this game, there are a lot of things I have to do that would never cross my mind in real life such as slaughtering the cows to make burger patties. Or in Paper Please, I had to make decision whether to let foreign immigrants into the country or not, to be honest, at one point I started to have fun being able to discover that some characters in the game don’t have sufficient documentation and I spotted their mistakes and stamped deny their entry. These are the advantages that documentary games have over documentary films.