Revelations: Games about Gods, Empathy, and Finding Answers
Hot links! Hot links! Get ‘em here! Welcome to Revelations, where every week I’m dishing up seven hot links, stuffed with videogames and the deeper things of life.
Games about gods
What do two “god games” show us about what their developers imagine god to be like? This provocative thought-experiment by Tom Dawson for The Ontological Geek examines the contrasting views of God presented in From Dust and Black and White. From Dust gives a picture of a voiceless, selfless deity who silently watches over his people, protecting them and asking nothing in return. On the other hand, Black and White presents a power-hungry deity who manipulates his people for his own selfish ends. In both cases, Dawson is forced to wonder if the games creator’s were trying to make a point.
Let down by religion
One game developer who is honest about his struggles concerning religion is David Cage. Featured in the last installment of Revelations for his thoughts on ways that games need to grow up, This week he commented to Ben Kuchera at The Penny Arcade Report about the dissatisfaction he had with the answers that religion provided for a deeply felt loss in his life. It’s not a weighty diatribe, just a comment, but it should be a stimuli for anyone who claims to belong to a religion. When we encounter someone dealing with loss, are we giving them trite answers?
Games to lift us higher
VESPER.5 is a curious game directly inspired by the sort of rituals that Christians engage in on a regular basis. You can make only one move every day, which means, in the words of creator, Michael Brough,
“If you wish to complete the game, you will have to make it a part of your life for at least 100 days. Make a ritual out of it. How will you incorporate it into your daily schedule? Will you tie it to an existing activity? Will you treat it as a ritual or merely a routine? Will you add to the ritual, embellishing it in your own way, making it yours? Meditate, say a prayer, think back over what has happened while you have been playing? Will you approach it alone or share it with another?”
Games to bring us lower
We recently covered this next game, but I think it’s worth mentioning twice. Depression Quest is a work of interactive fiction that is designed to put the player in the shoes of a depressed person and force them to see the difficulties they must overcome on their journey.
I highly recommend this experience, especially if you have anyone in your life who struggles with depression. The game is an exercise in empathy, something that anyone can benefit from. From the opening moments, as you read the beautifully crafted prose (prefaced by a quote from David Foster Wallace and a warning) and hear the first haunting notes of the piano, you know that this will be an experience worth having, no matter how difficult.
So… Everyone’s a gamer now, huh?
While we’re still feeling melancholy, let me share Leigh Alexander’s recent blog post where she wonders whether or not we should be excited that, finally, everyone is a gamer.
“…all of these mundane and addicting fantasies we use to avoid looking at each other in public emerged under the banner of “social” games — to lead us to a bleak living room vision where a family sits in silence in front of the TV, everyone playing silently with their own screen.”
Violence is still an issue
Though the attention deficit of our society demands that we leap from one controversy to the next, there is great value in continuing a good conversation, even if society at large tires of it. Recently, Simon Parking weighed in for New Statesman on the fact that videogames are simply the “the latest recruit to the aftermath blame tradition.” He argues,
“The issue of game violence and its potential effects may seem like an abstract, esoteric issue, demanding of scientific study to make clear what is opaque. But game violence has logic and precedence and is always an act of play, not of sincerity. The worry is then with those who cannot tell the difference, from disturbed high school student to the US senator.”
Best President Ever, Amiright?
Obama, is apparently, totally down with videogames. In a recent discussion on education, he mused that the creative energies of America’s youth might be stimulated by an educational system that encourages them to design videogames. The comments were framed within a larger idea, specifically that programming and other tech-related skills should not be taught only in colleges and universities, but high-schools, so that students are more prepared for careers right out of high school.
Well are you full yet? I hope so! But don’t worry, we’ll have seven more spicy links right here next week!