So I recently came to learn about the game Six Days at Fallujah and the 'controversy' that followed with a quick abandonment under the pretense 'it's a game' thanks to Extra Credits and their video on Game Controversy.
(For those who don't know Extra Credits is a channel on YouTube that creates lecture videos on various aspects of game development and game design, and a fair amount of what's covered can be applied to other subjects as well. By all means check them out.)
And after learning about the whole thing of 'it's a game' and the idea of people at first seeing games as a kind of toy it immediately got me thinking:
What's in a game?
Not as in what's IN a game but WHAT'S in a game.
Allow me to explain things.
Typically, the subject matter of a game will fall into one of three categories:
- A serious topic handled in a fictitious manner
- A fictitious topic handled in a fictitious manner
- A fictitious topic handled in a serious manner
An example of the first one would be the first Call of Duty game. Actually, scratch that, a better example would be Spec Ops: The Line, which was a third person shooter set in a post-catastrophe Dubai where the player would have to rescue a specific individual. Over the course of the game however there are several hallucinations and it forces the player to take note of the horrors of war by making many morally grey decisions over the course of play. The game handles modern tactics and real threats in a fictitious way by using fake characters in real places facing potentially real problems.
The second one is easy. Slime Rancher, Minecraft, Doom, all of these use a set of fictitious topics that are handled in a fictitious manner. How do you manage to kill the Ender Dragon in Minecraft? By finding a portal, creating several Ender Eyes, loading up on gear and heading to The End. How do you defeat demons in Doom? You shoot them until they die and then shoot them some more. These are focused on fake things and are purely for entertainment and nothing really else. You aren't supposed to take them seriously
The third one is a bit trickier. But a good example is easily Dust: An Elysian Tail. The game focuses on the story of the main character Dust as he tries to recover from his amnesia. A fake character, but in a genuine situation that reacts genuinely to what goes on around him.
Now, the kicker is that there is actually a forth type. A serious topic handled in a serious manner. News, certain kinds of modern fiction, and even some artwork or music focus on real, serious things that can really, seriously happen and deal with them seriously.
But every time a video game tries to do this, like with Six Days at Fallujah, it's shot down in a massive controversy. Why is that?
Some people think that it's because video games might need a better name to allow them to be taken more seriously, but I disagree. I heard the argument that comics got respect when they changed to graphic novels, but that didn't really seem to happen either.
Graphic novels seem to often be there own thing entirely. If anything, the term graphic novel came around about the same time manga started gaining popularity here in the US. And I've seen graphic novels sat alongside comics sat alongside manga sharing a similar name but all being different. Hell I owned a graphic novel that was a collection of the original Dark Phoenix Saga comics, and I do mean the original.
What changed wasn't the name of comics. What changed was what people thought what a comic really was. What was in a comic. And what was categorized as a comic. It became interchangeable.
There are several games out there now that are close to this already. Paintball is a game at it's core, so are sports and definitely board and card games. But video games get caught out for it.
And yet why?
So now I'd like to ask a favor, and for the first time it's about Twitter and hashtags. Whenever you're on the topic of games, or you feel that people need to reconsider just what a game is, use the following hashtag:
I'd like to see people give them more thought. They're more than just toys or entertainment. They're experiences, just like any other game, and like any piece of work (novel, art, movie or otherwise) they are only limited by what we as a society limit them to.
I for one feel that Six Days at Fallujah should have been made, if only so more people knew about that battle and so that the troops who died could have their names honored. The fact that people who lost relatives and actual survivors in that battle got behind this game really made me pause.
So ask yourself:
What's in a game?