essay, video games

Oh, for Fox’s sake!

Ladies and Gentlemen, video games as teaching tools have arrived. Sure, yes, many other people think that games can teach important aspects of the world and how to act in responsible but complex ways. There have been many, many games that have been created under the title/genre of persuasive games to creatively inform people through the language of video games. But, if you can believe Fox News, games are more sinister. They are trying to lure your children to “agendas” that are both “fear-mongering” that are “indoctrination”. This, combined with Left Behind Games‘ latest advertising plan, has me both vindicated and annoyed at the same time. Few other times have brought me to the point where I both feel like the hobby of my choice is both very good and very bad at the same time.

Despite my questioning it, I like that people are using games to teach social issues. This is a way that children, adults or really just anyone can approach an issue they wish to learn about an issue without being in direct physical contact with it. The goal of a game is to teach you something. The most basic approach is to have the game teach you to be better at the game itself. However, other games, those that might be labeled as persuasive games, are trying to teach about social issues, gender issues or just family dynamics. These are good. If you don’t like a game — much like, you know, everything — don’t go near it. There is nothing forcing you to play a game, read a book or see a movie. The fact that some games might be teaching you something you do not like is possible. In fact, it is perfectly possible that there are games teaching you things that you might not agree with through means that might not have even noticed at the time.

If you have engaged in a game, you have entered the “magic circle”. You were not coerced or dragged into it. You have chosen and continue to choose to interact with a game. The entire session is voluntary. The option you choose, the more you stay with a game and as part of a game world, is to continue. You can always quit. The right of a gamer is to stop the process. The game requires you, not the opposite. In order for the world of the game to exist, you must continue to give input, process that input and provide output. If, at any point in that time, you choose to stop, you can. Do so. Look at what you are doing, what you have done, and make a decision about it. This is the option of anyone at any time. If the game is teaching you about something you do not like, don’t play it.

I would like to be labeled as Christian. Or at least, I used to. If my choice of faith has be dragged through the mud by those that have microphones, I’m not sure I will flag myself as such in any context. It would seem, if you are on Fox News or have any popularity, that anything made that is against how you feel or believe is both required that you experience it and instantly trying to change you. It annoys me to no end that the most railed against things are those that are treasured or enjoyed by some minority of society. It would seem that all media things that exist are trying to influence children, games especially.

Fox News would have you believe that video games — I can almost think that by saying games they mean all games, ever — are teaching kids things that leaving kids “freaking out with sweaty palms”. These “liberal fear-mongering or indoctrination” games teaching kids about virtual polar bears and McDonald’s are leaving kids is such a state? What where they playing before? I have freaked out playing seemingly basic NES games, let alone a game in a browser that requires that you have even heard about it. That reaction is, in my opinion and depending on the age of the child, almost normal. Some games are hard. As talked about by Kirk Hamilton, these games, and especially Fate of the World, are very hard. Of course, it resulted in such a reaction. It’s not the message, it’s the medium and skill of the player.

I’d like to end this with a proposal. If there are truly games out there teaching things that are against your ideals, Fox News, then beat them at it. Instead of trying to fear-monger (let’s be honest here), try to make a better games. You have money. You probably have the people. Simply make a better game. Make more games. Host them on your site. Show those “liberals” that these games are better and that they teach kids the best way to manage government, money and businesses. Embed your beliefs in games and then let the market decide if people will “buy it”. It didn’t seem to work out for Left Behind Games,  but it might work for you.

Show us. Teach us. Let us play. Only then can we decide.