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  1. #1
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus
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    Games with a real-world point to make

    Someone asked me about popular games which try to make a political or cultural point and I ran out of ideas quite quickly so I wondered if you lot could fill-in-the-blanks a bit?

    Need to be reasonably popular (as in having received media attention for the RIGHT reasons)

    My original 2 were

    Papers Please
    I Get This Call Every Day

    The games people have thusfar suggested which seem to fit the bill are
    Fate of the World
    Cart Life
    Dys4ia
    Real Lives
    Hidden Agenda (which appears to be 404 again)
    Neocolonialism
    Sweatshop
    Fallen City
    Frontiers (HL Mod)
    Incredipede

    Note: we know about the politics simulators like Democracym Vote US 2013 etc. - but we're thinking more of games with a message - the Aesops Fables of gaming, if you like.

    Note: no links because posts with a tonne of links seem to get trapped as SPAM in my experience - most are easily Googleable...
    Last edited by trjp; 09-09-2013 at 02:55 PM. Reason: Updated to save people trawling a 6 page argument about reality :)

  2. #2
    Network Hub BTAxis's Avatar
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    I doubt this really counts, but there was the thing with pirated copies of Game Dev Tycoon, which comment on software piracy.

  3. #3
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Heliocentric's Avatar
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    Drunken people fighting are hilarious.
    I'm failing to writing a blog, specifically about playing games the wrong way
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  4. #4
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus gwathdring's Avatar
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    Hmm. One trick here is that most games with a narrative to speak of are about more than the in-world story. How explicitly the team is concerned with delivering one message or another about the real world as it is now can be tricky to gage, though.

    For example, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is interested in our increasing technological dependence--not just the escalation of prosthetics as explicitly shown in the story. Mass Effect is also interested in that issue as well as the ethics of vigilantism, xenophobia, and the scope of government--not as tertiary themes but as primary ones (having so many focal points makes it feel messy at times, but more dynamic and real at others). It is hard to say that either game has a specific point about any of these real world issues, however.

    I'd hold up Save the Date as another oddball candidate. It has a point about storytelling and how we experience stories; I'd call that cultural and "real world" related, but I don't think it's what you're looking for.

    America's Army is about how wonderful and amazing and awesome the American military is and why you should join up. So there's that ... blech.

    Fate of the World is about how complicated climate change is and how, while there's a lot we can do to improve our situation ... there's no easy correct answer and we need to work together intensely and expect shit to get pretty real as we continue to put strain on our resources.

    That's what I've got off the top of my head.
    I think of [the Internet] as a grisly raw steak laid out on a porcelain benchtop in the sun, covered in chocolate hazelnut sauce. In the background plays Stardustís Music Sounds Better With You. Thereís lots of fog. --tomeoftom

    You ruined his point by putting it in context thatís cheating -bull0

  5. #5
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    Fate of the World is definately in-the-hat - good call.

    I think I'm mostly focussing on putting people into a situation where they'll realise how the world works from the perspective of others - where the others aren't super-soldiers, cyborgs, medival knights or 8-bit plumbers :)

    Unless there's a Super Mario Real World Small Businessman Plumber Simulator - now there's an idea :)

  6. #6
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Berzee's Avatar
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    Cart Life seems to be rather along these lines, f'shure.

    Also, the most-est game of the "perspective of others" type despite its many limitations and technical problems: Real Lives 2010.

    Though I wouldn't say those have a particular point to make in the same sense that a "political and/or ideological activist game" or a fable does.
    Last edited by Berzee; 05-09-2013 at 08:08 PM.
    Support for my all-pepperjack-cheese food bank charity drive has been lukewarm at best.

  7. #7
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    Cart life looks cool, not noticed it before - thanks for that.

    We're not just looking for political point-scoring - just anything which makes people confront an issue they might not have confronted if it wasn't packaged as a game.

    I'm trying to do this for iOS/Android too and it seems Apple are pretty efficient and killing anything like this before it even makes the store!

  8. #8
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Faldrath's Avatar
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    Papo & Yo is an allegory of alcoholism and parental abuse.

  9. #9
    Moderator Anthile's Avatar
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    Spec Ops: The Line - Beyond being a deconstruction of contemporary military shooters it can be read as a harsh criticism of US-American military interventionism.

    Metal Gear Solid 2 - There's a ton of themes in this game. From governmental censorship via controlling the digital flow of information to criticism of "militainment". It's a game that seems to become more relevant by the day.

    Far Cry 2 - A fierce but honest evaluation of civil war in third world nations. Both sides are displayed as equally amoral and both turn out to be nihilistic in their hunger for power and money. There is no easy solution, shit's fucked up. It's a systemic problem.
    to wound the autumnal city.

  10. #10
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    Far Cry 2 also delivers a fairly aggressive message about how largely incapable foreign interventions are at resolving violence, most powerfully by those fucking checkpoints.

  11. #11
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    Far Cry 2 delivered a powerful message about how war takes away a player's agency, and but eventually you can solve things if you kill everyone, including yourself.

  12. #12
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    I'm not sure if it makes your "reasonably popular" criteria, but Anna Anthropy's Dys4ia really helped me to empathise with what my transgendered friends went through and continue to go through.

  13. #13
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus sinister agent's Avatar
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    Hidden Agenda. (warning: shameless plug to own blog)

    Real Lives

    Fate of the World (probably - I didn't play it extensively, partly because the loading times were a pain in the arse)

    This one's a bit tenuous, but the SWAT games, which are the latest entry on my blog, did a good job of getting across what SWAT teams do. I feel a bit scummy linking to myself twice, so it's there if you want to look for it. It's not a major point or anything, but it's an explicit message and it's delivered well, and ultimately makes the games what they are. You could perhaps say the same about America's Army too, but that's not one I've played very much.

  14. #14
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    Hidden Agenda looks nice - Real Lives looks bloody grim but I'll look into those - thanks again ;)

  15. #15
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    All games have a real-world point to make. All works have a real-world point to make. Everything is rife with symbolism: That's kinda the point of tropes. That's kinda the point of art.

    The things with overt political points are just attempting to use art in a hamfisted fashion. The biggest problem is the overuse of satire, not least of which because there are way too many people incapable of understanding satire - think Gatsby parties - but because satire works at counterpurposes: It transmutes the unthinkable into the thinkable and the thinkable into the norm.
    Nalano H. Wildmoon
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  16. #16
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus gwathdring's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano View Post
    All games have a real-world point to make. All works have a real-world point to make. Everything is rife with symbolism: That's kinda the point of tropes. That's kinda the point of art.

    The things with overt political points are just attempting to use art in a hamfisted fashion.
    This, and some bonus characters.
    Last edited by gwathdring; 05-09-2013 at 10:04 PM.
    I think of [the Internet] as a grisly raw steak laid out on a porcelain benchtop in the sun, covered in chocolate hazelnut sauce. In the background plays Stardustís Music Sounds Better With You. Thereís lots of fog. --tomeoftom

    You ruined his point by putting it in context thatís cheating -bull0

  17. #17
    Moderator Anthile's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano View Post
    The things with overt political points are just attempting to use art in a hamfisted fashion. The biggest problem is the overuse of satire, not least of which because there are way too many people incapable of understanding satire - think Gatsby parties - but because satire works at counterpurposes: It transmutes the unthinkable into the thinkable and the thinkable into the norm.
    Is there any specific game you would accuse of being overly satiric?
    to wound the autumnal city.

  18. #18
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anthile View Post
    Is there any specific game you would accuse of being overly satiric?
    You misunderstand:

    The general overuse of satire. The use of satire in aggregate. When everything is used ironically, nothing is used ironically.

    For instance, almost all the AAA MMM FPSs in some way satirize the American military-industrial complex and the previous generation of AAA MMM FPSs, except all they really do is provide an echo chamber of fart-sniffing that then becomes the norm. Or the plethora of sandbox games that in some way satirize the inherent ridiculousness of player agency: Everybody switching over from killing hookers to "lol killing hookers" isn't hanging a lampshade, it's just more of the same. Far Cry 3 ultimately had nothing to say because its "subtle" deconstruction of the genre WAS the genre.
    Nalano H. Wildmoon
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    "His lack of education is more than compensated for by his keenly developed moral bankruptcy." - Woody Allen

  19. #19
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus sinister agent's Avatar
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    It's a common pitfall of the parody in particular. Do it wrong and you become that which you mock. Sometimes even if you do it right - Ali G springs to mind as a character who was originally built to mock, but was eventually idolised and mimicked by some of the very people he was taking the piss out of.

    The games I listed are interesting to me precisely because their messages (except Fate of the World) are merely implicit. They don't preach, they aren't even saying much, but they're made in a way that will almost certainly provoke certain thoughts. I respect that.

  20. #20
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anthile View Post
    Metal Gear Solid 2 - There's a ton of themes in this game. From governmental censorship via controlling the digital flow of information to criticism of "militainment". It's a game that seems to become more relevant by the day.
    MGS4 tackles increasing militarisation and the rise of private military companies in the same way. While also commenting on games industry itself.

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