Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Videogames will save the world!

And I don't mean that in a 'figurative sense' or as a playfully ironic commentary on the the over-abundance of superhero tropes and 'hero complex' tales. I mean it instead that I think videogames are teaching our kids and young adults to think through, what is to many older persons, potentially opaque and incomprehensible systems.

Let me explain.

I was watching the fantastic Michael Moore style documentary The Corporation. You've probably seen the promo's for it - it's the one where the film makers compare the corporation as a legal "person" to a psychopath. It makes sense, after all it has no conscience and it's main driving motivation is the bottom line.

One of the big things that I got out of the documentary was that whenever people saw through what was a patently exploitative system (as was the case in the Bolivian water riots and a number of other examples) people got up and did something about it.

Videogames, according to Ian Bogost, can speak to players through what he terms Procedural Rhetoric, and as games get more complicated and convoluted, gamers are only getting more and more used to the idea of procedures and systems. Gonzalo Frasca in his essay for The Videogame Theory Reader (which I have summarised elsewhere) likens simulation to the act of creating government legislation and I think he's quite right when he says that
"Video games imply an enormous paradigm shift for our culture because they represent the first complex simulational media for the masses".

Videogames can and are giving players the experiences necessary and the cognitive tools to be able to start to come to grips with large systems and procedures. In the film The Corporation, a company appearing 'socially responsible' becomes a market driven reaction to consumers being turned off by irresponsible plunderers of the environment. This is a product of the market, which in itself is a system. When more people are taught (by videogames) the ability to think through processes in general, it is my hope more people will start to take positive action and make themselves heard about a number of these inherently bad systems that have cropped up in society.

That's enough of my ranting. Go watch The Corporation on YouTube or DVD and get excited about the prospect of a gamer revolution! Viva La Gamer!


bsimius said...

Hmm. I've never thought of this before, but egads, man, you're right. It's not just the content of the simulation that gamers interact with, it's the use and understanding of systems qua systems.

I'm going to go play Spore... now where did I put my cape?

Ben Abraham said...

Yeah I'm genuinely excited by the prospect of kids and adults alike getting used to the idea of thinking about and understanding how rules, laws and systems have a wider impact than just their own small circle.

Alas, I still have no answer to the question of how we can show people to make the connection between games and real life. I guess that's what bloggers like myself (and a good number of others) are trying to do in writing about games - trying to get people to think about issues a little bit wider than just "this game sucks because of XYZ".

miel de mon coeur said...

My gods, you are hot! I fall in luv wit you based on ur blog. RU singl?

Ben Abraham said...

haha! Thanks for the comment, but why would I want to let the whole internet know that I am still single?

Glad to hear you're enjoying the blog.

xenchik said...

thinking about what you say here, it's an interesting concept but one thing needs to occur in order for a true revolution ... critical mass! it would assume that enough of the population understand, are familiar with, and can see through these evil systems and corporations. yes, gamers may understand this and explore these ideas through their medium, but what of the rest of us? are we to be left behind because we are not being "taught" the same ideals and/or methods to bring it down? something to think about.

some gamers maybe possibly forget that the majority of the world's population are *not* gamers :)