Normally I hate it when a game offers false choices, giving me two options when only one will actually progress the plot, the other simply halting things until I change my mind. It’s not really a choice at that point; it’s an illusion and a bad one at that. The first half of Fable 3 avoids this kind of blatant false choice but only because the game doesn’t try to hide its linearity. Instead of giving you two choices, one right and one wrong, it only ever gives you one choice and then just waits for you to pick it. Instead of giving players a false choice, it gives us a forced choice.
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There is a board game called Pandemic in which players act as agents of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), stemming the onslaught of virulent diseases around the world. Conversely, there is a flash game series of the same name in which players create and evolve a disease to infect and kill every human on the planet. While not explicitly educational games, both experiences offer various learning opportunities. In fact, most games could be far more factually informative than they are. The genre of education games aside, how much room do we have for learning in games? How much educational information can we squeeze into digital games before players become bored, distracted, or indoctrinated?
Games are—by definition—learning experiences. Players procedurally come to understand the game world. Drop some seasoned gamers into any first-person shooter, and after a few moments of random button tapping and stray gunfire, they will be dishing out headshots with the best of them. But how much could the average Call of Duty fanatic tell you about the AK-47? Could they tell you how the AK has become the modern day weapon of choice for guerilla fighters around the world? Could they tell you how arms dealers traffic supplies of AKs from conflict to conflict? With some additional information in the game, maybe some could.
I bought a Kinect on release day. It’s what I do. Unlike when I bought a Wii on release day at the very same Best Buy several years ago or an iPad on release day several months ago, this time there was no line or waiting list. About a half dozen of us gathered around the doorway five minutes before ten o’clock and then strolled on up to the display and had our pick of the pile. I bought the Kinect sensor of course, along with the nifty thingamjig that lets you attach it to the top of your TV. I picked up Dance Central and Kinect Sports along with Kinect Adventures (which comes with the sensor). I’ve now been living with it for a week.
This new acquisition reminds me in many respects of those heady first days when I bought my Wii. It’s a nifty new technology that promises to get me off the couch and into the game. I’ve been inviting friends and family over to check it out and be appropriately amazed. I still lose in boxing to people that I could totally beat up in a real boxing match. The technology itself draws oohs and aahs but is far from perfect. Like my Wii, I’m not entirely sure I’ll be using it a month from now, but I hope that I will be.
When Undead Nightmare was originally announced, I assumed that the game would begin with the resurrection of Red Dead Redemption protagonist, John Marston. Such a move would take some of the gravitas away from the original title, but it didn’t seem a bad way to extend the Red Dead universe through this particular character’s story.
Undead Nightmare does not in fact begin this way, instead deciding to offer a glimpse of Marston’s New Austin through a plot just slightly outside of the continuity of the original game. The player, for instance, will witness the death of Uncle for the second time near the beginning of the game in a whole new way. This “off continuity” follow up then begins somewhat close to what would be the conclusion of Red Dead Redemption‘s plotline with Marston living at home again with his wife, Abigail, and his son, Jack but before the games concluding episodes. It becomes a play on one of the dominant themes of the first game, the role of fathers as protectors in their family’s lives. As Abigail and Jack are transformed into the undead, Marston must once again absent himself for the sake of the family. In other words, to seek out a cure that will allow the family to become whole again (well, and to try to teach them to not eat brains).
Note: this article includes discussion of spoilers for Fable III.
It seems as though politics and games have never been closer. Even leaving aside last week’s U.S. Supreme Court hearing for the controversial California law criminalizing the sale of M-rated games to minors, we are also living in a time when games are increasingly becoming part of the political discourse. GamePolitics recently provided a rundown on political candidates featured in game-themed commentary and ads, game regulation and censorship are becoming bigger issues in Australia and Germany, and game satire and parody are now an established part of internet-born pop culture and conversation.
But how do you reference politics in a more mainstream work? And does the inclusion of politics date or problematize the gaming experience no matter how you do it?