No matter how culturally recognizable Mario or Sonic are among non-gamers, no matter how many games of Angry Birds I see played on public transportation, I still see shocked faces when I mention my interest in political games (or social impact games, serious games, whatever you want to call them). Part of this incredulity is the frivolous approach to games that most people take, sure. Conversely, part of this response is founded in how necessarily complex serious issues seem.
Environmental change? Gun violence? Urban poverty? These are big issues with many stakeholders and twice as many opinions. Plenty of people feel uncomfortable discussing these issues around a dinner table among friends. Is it a surprise the idea of games addressing big, systemic concerns, sounds laughable? As simple, playful things, how could games plumb such intricacies?
While I am a professed fan of large systems in games, sometimes it’s the simple things that make compelling and effective serious games. To that end, here are three recent examples of games that offer interesting perspectives through simple means.