Revelations: Games are Dumb, Powerful, Emotional, and Scary

Jordan shares articles on the frustrating aspects of war games as well as their value. Also some helpful articles on Dishonored and XCOM

Written by Jordan Ekeroth / Published on November 16, 2012

Welcome back gamers, hardcore and casual alike! Whether you’re a mother wanting to learn more about the medium to prepare for some frantic Black Friday shopping or if you’re a gangly teen whose biggest worry is how to have less acne (I was), I think you’ll really learn some great things and encounter some delicious points of view in this week’s Revelations, the link-list that doesn’t just have soul; it has Spirit!

1. Impress your friends & overcome your fears.

If you read this article by Jackson Ryan over at Dusty Cartridge, you’ll be able to impress everyone you know by telling them how videogames present us with a new psychological frame for dealing with traditional fight or flight scenarios. Furthermore, if you understand the point of the article, you’ll also recognize that videogames have great potential for helping players overcome their fears! Win win!

“Video games change how we respond to our fears because they constantly ask us to confront them. Fear is an unavoidable device that is used to drive us onward, to survive. Fear, in the real-world, drives survival by activating a physiological response. Within the realities of our various game-worlds, fear drives survival by asking us to overcome it.”

2. Good dads are the real heroes

In working with young people, one often hears the staggering statistics surround the so-called “fatherlessness epidemic” in contemporary culture. (Example: 85% of children who display behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes,) It shouldn’t be a surprise then, that one of the most prominent emerging themes in games is the positive (or honestly negative) portrayal of fathers. This article by Andrew Groen discusses the trend and wonders:

“Is fatherhood just a new trend, like zombies and World War II, that will fade out just as quickly? Or is it the next step on a long road that will eventually see games dealing with more and more complex, human issues?”

3. Oh, you’re making a statement, are you?

A trend, as of late, has been for games to use violence as a means of critiquing the evils of violence. But how well does that work? Cameron Kunzelman played Xcom: Enemy Unkown and concluded that in this game, it does not work well at all.

“The strangest, and maybe saddest part, about all of this is that the player knows instinctively how to play. I knew immediately that I was going to have to torture aliens and genetically modify my soldiers in order to play that game. The possibility for cooperation was always-already closed off, though I can’t articulate why. I just knew. There is no question. The ethical question, then, is a beautiful failure. Why have the debate in game?”

4. The rules change us

Mattie Brice, however, realized that games do change the people who play them. As we are forced to conform to the rules of the game, it trains us to think in certain ways as we progress into the future:

You are not supposed to leave a game the same person. For a time you can’t tell the difference between you and the game, and once you leave, you take a bit of it back to your life. It is the negotiation between you and what the game wants you to do. That’s much like how we describe identity overall, the tension between the self and culture.

5. Disrespectful

Yet, for all the high-brow talk regarding the worth of games, it’s hard to work our way around the fact that most of today’s most popular games are centered around portrayals of war; and the gamification of events that cost real men and women their lives is, on some level, quite distasteful. A pair of articles were published to Push Select Magazine this past week. I think you’ll enjoy both of them.

First, Jeff Wheeldon on “Remembrance Without Horror”, wherein he examines how the context of a game experientially rewrites history for the player, changing their perception of a real historical event.

Second, James Hilton on “War is Hell. Helluva Lot of Fun”, wherein he calls players to reflect on the source of their fun in war games.

6. It’s not about the violence

On the other hand, Stephen Totilo, writing for the New York Times, argues that what makes these games fun has nothing to do with the violence, but in fact the thrill and challenge of overcoming fast and frenetic challenges that only incidentally involve killing virtual representations of humans and humanoids.

“These phases of stressed decision-making are training for the more unpredictable encounters with rival players in the competitive multiplayer mode. A good minute of Halo combat is like a good minute in the gym: The rest of your life is momentarily forgotten while you sweat it out, and then you’re happy that the challenge is done, and that you are in some way improved.”

7. It’s the details

There’s a very interesting read over by Scott Juster at PopMatters that explores the world of Dishonored. Due to the fact that I rented the game, I was forced to rush through the campaign of it, finishing as quickly and as efficiently as I could. Unfortunately I missed so many details of the game which Scott’s article–delving into the details of the experience–explains that give it so much life.

Well that’s all kiddos. Have a happy gaming weekend. Go frag some dudes.

And then take some time and think about what you’ve done!

About the Author:

Jordan Ekeroth has the crippling inability to say anything more than what he thinks he means. Follow him on Twitter: @JordanEkeroth