Board Game Development

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During my last year in Chicago, I was finding myself creatively unfulfilled. My job at a large Chicago running company was leaving me exhausted on weekends (I was getting up for work when everyone else was stumbling back from the bars), physically worn-out during the week (from working at the company’s warehouse), and a combination of the two while working our events (my longest work day was 18 hrs).

Coming home from that sort of job, all I wanted to do was either sleep or play video games. My creative passions were still there, but I had to put them on hold in order to keep myself sane and healthy. Eventually, I made the decision to move to Seattle. Chicago wasn’t working, and I needed somewhere I could get outdoors and breathe. I knew an artist who I got along with and who I knew I could find creative inspiration from. We made plans, and I began packing my things.

During those last weeks at the running company, I decided I needed to stretch my creative muscles. I downloaded Minecraft and began to play with Garrett every night, using the game as a platform for mindless, fun creativity while chatting about our future living situation. In the course of our conversations (and excavations) we started discussing a science-fiction universe he and his older brother had begun years earlier, and which he was eager to start doing artwork for again.

I was planning to return to school in Seattle to study Creative Writing. I figured this might be a good opportunity to practice my writing. We could begin work on a collaborative project utilizing our skills, but without the pressure of needing it to succeed. Just a creative project for fun. After watching the team I assembled for SomeFriends Studios flounder and break apart, something this lighthearted felt like the perfect next step.

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Fast-forward. I am now living in Seattle with Garrett, and everything about our living situation is working out perfectly. I’m sitting around the apartment, waiting for school to start, and feel the urgent need to refresh my game design skills, which had been poorly neglected the year I was working at the running company. I think back to the beginning of school in Chicago, and how the instructors required us to abandon computers for a couple weeks in order to focus our design skills on board games.

The idea was/is that board games utilize most of the same design skills that one needs when creating a video game. Systems and mechanics (rules) are extremely important for crafting the sort of experience you want your players to have. Playtesting is extremely important. Keeping your designs simple and focused… everything you learn from designing a board game builds on skills that will absolutely be utilized in video game design.

With the breakdown of the SomeFriends team, I learned an invaluable lesson about over-reliance on others. Although video games were my passion, a lack of programming knowledge and a desire to delve more into systems design led me to undertake the task of developing a board game as practice. Like my writing for Garrett’s scifi universe, it would just be for fun.

A coworker at the running company in Chicago had introduced me to some more complex board games during my last year there (he was the only other nerd at the company), and I found myself compelled by the complexity a lot of those games exhibited. In particular, I was drawn to a game I played only once during that last year, but which managed to entirely capture my imagination.

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This is A Game of Thrones: The Board Game. And what I love about it is that it the game functions beautifully as simulation.

When you play Game of Thrones, you feel like you are sitting in a war room, leaning over a map of Westeros and planning out the movement of your armies in response to enemy advances. Much like chess was an analog for war, this game attempts to achieve the same metaphor, but bring it closer to reality by removing a lot of the symbolism. As a result, the game is massively complex… you must balance resources for your armies, plan movement by water, foot, or horseback, and even engage in diplomacy and subterfuge with the other players through conversations and debates occurring above the playing field. In short, the game requires you to step into the shoes of a leader of one of Game of Thrones‘ various houses.

I loved the feeling that came from that. With a little imagination, it was very easy to believe that somewhere in the world, real men and women were battling and dying as a result of your unit placements and tactical errors.

This was the feeling I wanted to achieve with my board game.

This is what we call “mechanics as metaphor”. Game mechanics that are designed to provoke the player into thinking about their actions as representative of something else. Another favorite game of mine, FTL: Faster Than Light achieved the same result for a different situation. While Game of Thrones simulated medieval tactics and politics through the movement of pieces across a board, FTL simulated the feeling of sitting on the bridge of a starship, hunched over a computer monitor showing positions of crew members and the status of the ship, while exploring the galaxy and being attacked by hostile alien ships. And it did it all through the mechanics of clicking on different tiles (rooms) on your ship to send your crewmates (basically little dots) there so they could automatically complete certain actions (or clicking on tiles on the enemy ship in order to target it with your weapons).

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The question I then asked myself was, what mechanics could I reasonably simulate? Because I was living with Garrett and had been working on his universe with him–and because he had consistently said he would love to see his universe realized as a game–I decided to go back and take a look at the core of what made his universe unique. Even in some of the awful sketches I had done to help myself visualize the layout of the location the story was taking place in, I saw the beginnings of what could potentially lead to a good board design:

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The premise was that there was a galactic peace-keeping force (Wardens) who went around the galaxy helping others do good. They were guided by an alliance of alien races working through a centralized Council.

Right off the bat, I recognized a few central themes which stood out as prime candidates for a board game: politics, morality, and the balance of peace.

I started concepting the game in one of my sketchbooks:

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I chose hexagons for no discernible reason other than 1) other games used hexagons, and 2) hexagons look like a cool scifi shape. The notes I scrawled in as I began thinking about how players would interact with this board. Some were abandoned or altered over time, but the core of the game remained the same from then on:

“Using Diplomats, establish Embassies in other Territories to gain political control of the region.”

A couple weeks later, one of my friends hopped off of a pirate ship (no, seriously) after sailing up from San Francisco. With a similar interest in game development (he was doing a paper prototype for a game similar to FTL but focused on naval battles) and a notebook full of design ideas, we sat down in my living room for a full day and got creative. I busted out my recently-made prototype of the sketch from my notebook, and we playtested my game for the first time. The game pieces were cut up scraps of leftover plastic from a modeling kit, thumbtacks, and pocket change.

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In spite of its early state, my friend kept using some key words to describe the game as we played: “cool”, “fun”, and “awesome”. That was enough to inspire me to keep at it.

As the game developed, I kept iterating on the designs and playtesting with different people. Eventually, I added Military to the game, as well as a resource (Morality Tokens). Adding a Diplomat to the board gains you more Morality, but adding a Military means you lose Morality. Diplomats are necessary to win the game, but Military impede the progress of other player’s Diplomats.

At one point, I even went out and bought A Game of Thrones: The Board Game, cannibalizing its pieces so I would no longer have to use found materials as playing pieces and adopted some ideas from it that I felt worked very well. Most importantly, I added an Event Timer (based on # of turns taken, not on actual time), which required players to work together to stop disasters from affecting everyone on the board, all while they were working to further their own goal of winning the game. So in essence, the game becomes a balancing act, where your ability to win by competing against other players is constantly checked by your need to cooperate with the other players to stop disasters from occurring. This has led to some really cool scenarios reminiscent of political debates, with players arguing over how best to work together.

To date, there have been 10 playtesting sessions held with family and friends. I just held the 11th this past weekend, at Mox Boarding House, which was my first public playtest.

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There was only one taker (I’m going to try a different venue for the next public playtest). But he enjoyed the game, and didn’t have any trouble comprehending the rules. We had to order him a Cherry Coke instead of a beer.

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Work continues on the game. I’ve managed to get the rules worked down to a highly stable set of core mechanics which haven’t changed across a lot of recent playtests. All the changes being made to the game at this point are small details, to reduce complexity and streamline comprehension.

I don’t know where my time spent on this board game is going to take me, but I’m excited by the positive feedback the game has received, and eager to explore the possibility of getting it published. Regardless, if there is no way I can move forward from where I’m at, I’m still happy because I’ve already achieved my goal: Have fun making a game that I will continue to enjoy playing with my friends.

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Interstellar

I always have lots of thoughts after watching films. It amazes me that it’s taken me this long to write any of them down.

 

This review contains less spoilers than the above trailer.

Interstellar has long been on my radar. In light of a new volunteer job and increased productivity on my book, it subsequently fell off. So it came as a fortuitous coincidence that after a few weeks of slowly watching through all of Stanley Kubrick’s films in chronological order, a friend of mine reminded me that Nolan’s film was out. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was circumstantial that, on a night I had first decided to rewatch 2001: A Space Odyssey I instead went to view Insterstellar.

The film feels like Christopher Nolan’s take on 2001: A Space Odyssey. It has a similar structure to 2001 in that it’s about people going out into space and experiencing some Crazy Things in the form of Big Ideas, but it’s kept very grounded in human experiences and relationships. Whereas 2001 is a psychological trip, Interstellar is an emotional one. Both have haunting scores, though for entirely different reasons. Hans Zimmer brings the pipe organ and cello to life in this soundtrack in a way that eerily complements the frightening forces encountered by humanity on the edge of a daunting new frontier. Although the physical torments faced by the crew are many, the film relishes in providing a new kind of space horror, one that has not been explored in such excruciating detail in cinema before; whereas Gravity was about the horrible effects of physics on a human in space, Interstellar is about the effects of relativity. It’s a haunting story about mankind’s struggle with physics and time, both in our personal lives and in the larger sense of human survival in space. Never before has a film presented such a horrifying take on the effects of the Theory of Relativity, putting to shame any portrayals that have before appeared on screen. One scene in particular, following the crew’s return from their first alien planet, hits the viewers hard. It’s not the sort of horror that takes an immediate place in front of your eyes, perverting the senses, but a deep-seated, real-life horror that grips you by the heart and slowly squeezes, making it all the more terrifying and emotional.

Interstellar, in the vein of many Nolan films, is also a movie about ideas much grander than the simple title would have you believe. Although the plot might be understood, at its basic level, to be about mankind’s need to leave Earth for new worlds, the subtext of the film reveals many alternative messages depending on where you choose to look. At one point, McConaughey’s character inquires to Hathaway’s about the imposing force of nature, to which Hathaway responds that “nature isn’t good or evil… the only evil out here is what we bring with us.” Later in the film, as two character engage in physical conflict on a remote planet, there is a striking moment where the camera jumps away from the action, to portray the two humans – whose story we deeply care about – as insignificant dots in a large and oppressively passive world, reminding the viewer of this earlier message. The futility of conflict against nature is a constant theme in the film, both in the visuals and dialogue.

In spite of all this, Interstellar is undeniably a movie about hope. It is about humanity’s triumph over adversity, not just in the moment-to-moment action of the film, but in our theoretical future. As the film depicts situation after situation where mankind is insignificant in the face of the cosmos, the film ends on an uplifting note. While individual characters get their resolution in the last minutes of the film, humanity itself is given resolution in a very pivotal scene preceding that, meant as a not-so-subtle nod to the final moments of Space Odyssey. The scene (and the science fiction concept behind it) presents us with the idea that the unyielding and terrifying forces of the cosmos which have been plaguing our protagonists in so many ways throughout the course of the film are ultimately tamable. It presents us with a message that humanity can accomplish anything, given the motivation. And while some of the lesser themes of the film are about finding that motivation through love, in moment-to-moment actions and in larger ways, the real point that can be taken away from the film is that it doesn’t matter what inspires us… inspiration in any form is what will push humanity towards a brighter future.

“Haunting” isn’t a large enough word to encompass the many ideas expressed within this film, but it is the singular word most adequate to describe both the terrifying and the uplifting moments of this beautiful, unforgettable experience.

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Website being revamped.

Please excuse the mess while I try to make things a little prettier around here.

Halo’s Missing Gametype

Since Halo 4 came out and I saw how 343 incorporated some light elements into their Dominion gametype that reminded me of Halo Wars, I began to brainstorm how it might be possible to take that idea and utilize it to create a new gametype for future Halo games. As the idea developed and I started incorporating more and more of my own gameplay desires into this theoretical gametype, I started realizing that other people who play Halo in a manner similar to me might be interested in hearing my ideas, so eventually I sat down and typed everything up in a document.

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I’ve shown this to many people already, including fans over at Halo.Bungie.Org, and general consensus has been that it sounds really fun to play, but that it would be hard to sell the gametype to other Halo players. Writing this up was a fun little exercise in concepting a gametype for me, but I’d definitely like to hear everyone’s thoughts, whether positive or negative. I’m really curious what everyone else might think, so feel free to click on the Dropbox icon below to download the document, or click on the link to view it on its own page here.

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http://isaac-frankel.com/my-work/exercises/halos-missing-gametype/

New Horizons

Film and video games are two relatively similar mediums. But while both have been around now for generations, only one has had the time and courage to push itself into new realms of storytelling, attempting to express various messages of humor, drama, faith, and awareness. Many would claim that the reason video games have not yet pushed out into new territories is because it is still a relatively new medium, having existed for only thirty years, compared to the rough century that film has been around. But this is, quite simply, not true.

The first commercial movie theater was established in 1902 for the projection of the limited films that existed at the time, most of which ran around 12 minutes. Approximately forty years later, Citizen Kane was released, a film which many regard to be the first major step towards film being accepted as a mature and useful medium for conveying artistic messages. However, in the years prior, the art form was progressed in many important ways before Citizen Kane ever began production, through the experiments of rising filmmakers from year to year.

Generally, most video game critics do not agree that the game industry has yet had its Citizen Kane. Although many state their personal choices to occupy this role, ranging from meaning-filled, triple-A titles to the more subdued but nonetheless potent independent game scene, the so-called “Citizen Kane of video games” is something that is widely talked about, but which none can agree upon.

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The first commercial video game was released in 1972 for home use; PONG, now considered the founding title of all video games, is more-or-less the video game equivalent of Worker’s Leaving The Lumiere FactoryBut since then, 41 years of successes and failures in the video game industry have come and gone, leaving us without a single game that the majority of game players agree upon being as influential as Citizen Kane was for the film industry. The problem is simple, and stems from the fact that we are simply spending so much time concerning ourselves about when or where this game will arise, rather than getting out there and pushing for it to be made ourselves.

The video game industry is plagued with problems: developers who want to cater only to a market that will net them the highest revenue, publishers who confine the artistic vision of developer’s stories in order to appeal to the widest possible demographic, and independent developers who have the right idea but often express it through a medium that few are likely to see, limiting the spread of “proper” and “mature topic” video games to those who actively seek them out.
What this industry needs is not more action-packed games. It does not need more shooters. Likewise, it does not need less publishers and less people developing freely in a niche market.
What we really need, is less fear of failure.

Video games are the perfect medium for expressing a message. Unlike film, games have the ability to place a person into the shoes of another, to see the world as they see it. Because of this, it allows a developer to properly craft an experience that permits the individual playing to exit their own mind for a time, and step into the psychology of another. Similarly, it allows the player to be removed from their everyday life and made to face situations that would naturally be outside their comfort zone, forcing them to decide how to respond to each scenario as it is presented. Because of this, video games have the highest potential for expressing artistic visions and important messages of any medium in existence.

So far, some of the games that are most widely accepted as containing an important vision do nothing other than feed on the artistic visions of others to create a commentary on gaming itself. Bioshock is known for forcing the player to face the fact that, regardless of whatever free will they feel they have over their experience while playing a game, it is still directed by others. Spec Ops: The Line, makes us realize that any person who reacts the way video game characters react to their situations in real life, is not the most sane individual.

But these are all commentary on the medium itself, a look at gaming from a meta level, asking casual gamers to confront the reality of their hobby. To date, these games do little to improve our outlook on life and our interaction with the society we live in. On the reverse side, many video games happen to stumble upon critical themes over the course of their story’s development, themes which were not part of the original game’s purpose, but which nonetheless lend significant weight to the worlds that they have built and how those reflect upon our own.

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In fact, of all the games out there, Mass Effect is perhaps the most meaningful, the one that provides the real takeaway message of all the games currently on the market, a message of our ever-present tendency towards specieism. And, ironically, some of the older Call of Duty titles, which intended to convey a message of futility in the absolute horrors of war (although unfortunately, the series has since devolved into psychopathic shoot-em ups for the sake of violent action.) But the reason why these less-meaningful games are more important to our society than the purpose-driven experiences mentioned above is simple: more people are playing them. And until we have AAA titles willing to not just include similar messages in their experiences, but focus on them, that is not going to change. These are simply small steps towards the larger goal that will be meaningful games.

But one must be careful here how to distinguish a meaningful game that will be experienced and will be effective at conveying its message, and a meaningful game that will be shrugged off and ignored.
We all know about the movements. Initiatives to promote global veganism or halt abortion, reduce carbon emissions or ban firearms. While each endeavor is a noble pursuit, undeniably undertaken by people who wholly believe in their convictions, the need for immediate change, and the necessity to sacrifice their time to ensure increased awareness, it is – simply put – not as effective as it should be. And the single largest reason for this is that… it’s invasive.

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While projects such as those above are no doubt the right areas for our society to be focusing on if we want to improve as a species, if an individual does not choose to participate or engage with a movement on their own, it’s not because they’re unaware of what’s at stake or even necessarily because they don’t care. Generally, it’s because people want to feel that they’re making choices on their own, rather than being forced to engage with realities at a time when they’re just not ready. It’s because many activists force their way rudely into other’s lives, casting judgements on them for not listening, or accusing them of a crime which they are not yet willing to accept being guilty of.
In short, the personal decision to change one’s lifestyle and habits is, just that… personal. For another to come forward and force individuals to feel guilt about their actions will not provoke the desired response… rather, it will cause the accused person to feel victimized, and to retreat away from their ‘attacker’. A natural and universal response to uncomfortable external stimuli.
Taking a message and attempting to force it down another’s throat is proven, time and time again, to be an ineffective method of instigating change. People do not respond well to invasive actions taken against their own psychological privacy. Awareness must stem from their own curiosity.

But what, then, is the next step? If video games are now at the point in their history where radical changes should be made in the messages that they are delivering, how do developers go about making their profession a more worthwhile endeavor? The first place to start is rather simple: world-building.

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In most cases, world-building is the process of creating a fictional world that adheres to its own history and natural laws, keeping consistent across all tracts as much as possible. This phrase is most often heard when writers are crafting the world in which their stories will take place, or by filmmakers wishing to lend believability to their fictional worlds. From novels such as A Game of Thrones to films like Blade Runner, each artist must ply their trade to create a world that the viewer feels they can step into.

But for video games, this is different for one key reason: the game’s entire purpose is to allow the player to step into the world. Once that is achieved, the next step for the developers is to figure out how to keep them there.
Almost anyone could learn how to throw 3D assets into a computer system, code a simple set of interactions, and let the player roam free. The trick is to keep the player fooled, keep them believing that the simulated world they inhabit is a real one, taking place just beyond the borders of their TV screen. The more realistic and believable the world, the more likely the player is going to want to spend time there. But this process doesn’t stop at science fiction and fantasy settings. Indeed, it is perhaps even more important in titles that take place in the real world.

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Grand Theft Auto 4, when it was released in 2008, was widely lauded as one of the most impressively crafted game worlds at the time, with Rockstar Games paying a nearly unfathomable amount of attention to detail in their recreation of real-life New York. From pedestrians walking down the street to boats cruising along the Hudson River, the game world was amazingly immersive, quite literally capable of functioning even without player interaction. The game even had a working set of traffic lights that were programmed with a similar system to real world cities, and traffic that would independently interact with this system. Millions of people were sucked into the believable location, dropping hours upon hours of gametime into the experience it provided; and the sequel looks to outdo even its predecessor.

In order for games such as this to work, they need to be believable. Were the physical world and its multiple complex, overlapping systems diminished in any way, it is nearly undeniable that there would be far less people pouring there money and, more importantly, their time into this game. The trick now, is to create an equally immersive experience that players can take something away from in addition to having hours of fun.

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Many franchises, such as Call of Duty or the James Bond series, utilize a wide-variety of real-world locales that viewers are familiar with (and even some that they’re not), to extend that sense of believability beyond the screen. Additionally, it also lends a flair of exoticness to the atmosphere of the film or game… presenting the player or viewer with an experience that they might not be capable of having through their everyday lives.

But while a boat ride down the jungle rivers of Vietnam or a romp through the deserts of Egypt is likely to provoke a positive emotional reaction, it is not all that these creators have to rely upon. In fact, many stories frequently use the environment to simulate the true message of a scene, while the action and (in the case of video games) gameplay, can continue doing whatever it needs to do to remain entertaining.

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These sort of expertly crafted experiences are highly effective as they can efficiently convey their message to the viewer/player without removing them from the joy of the experience. The consumer, who is paying for the experience, remains entertained, and the developer is not required to sacrifice their vision or the more important message behind their story.

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For one specific example, one needs to look no further than Fallout 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. While the basic premise of each is to ‘have fun shooting until you reach the end’, all the while you are surrounded by and immersed in a world that speaks to you of its true context. In Fallout 3, the player must survive a post-apocalyptic world that is plagued by the horrors of war and radiation. On the surface, the game is a satirical and humorous look into the imaginings of Cold War-era science fiction films, but when the player spends enough time walking through the world, they see that even while veiled in humor, it is not a place they would ever want to experience beyond the comforts of their couch.
In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, the theme is much the same. As players progress through the game (again, ‘have fun shooting until they reach the end’), they are taken on a tour of worldwide locations plagued by the horrors of human technology and unrestrained ambition. Chernobyl, where man’s uninhibited quest for nuclear power went horribly wrong. The war-torn Middle East, where some of humankind’s oldest cultures have thrived, but are now being destroyed by the ravages of modern aggression. And finally, the heart of nuclear destruction, where the player ultimately dies in a horrific and realistically glory-less sequence of torturous brutality.
These are experiences that, while fun purely for the gameplay, can nonetheless have a lasting impression on players. In fact, it just may be that there are no more effective messages around today about the horrors of nuclear destruction. These video games have reached a larger audience than many anti-nuclear films have in an even longer stretch of time.

But these messages are few and far between, and focus on issues that most already understand and agree with. While certainly the chosen game examples are effective, the number of titles in existence that cover topics intended to promote awareness and understanding is staggeringly low, even when little additions of current topics of debate to enhance the meaning behind a game would do very little to interfere with its overall plot. Fear of overstepping bounds and failing to hold attention by being “too preachy” seems to have halted developers in their tracks, keeping them stuck in a pattern of repeating familiar and comfortable themes and experiences. If a shootout in the fishing areas of coastal China happened to move through a shark fin drying facility, would it detract from the enjoyment of the gameplay? The answer is, obviously, “no”. But while this addition would do little to detract from the fun factor of the game, it also would serve its players and our society in a lasting way, however simple it may seem. For every group of people that play that level, a small percentage will later do research to learn more about the scenario of which they previously had no awareness of. Humans are naturally curious beings. Our proclivity towards intelligence provokes us to always seek more knowledge, which in turns helps to promote a fuller understanding of the world we live in.
Without exposure to those darker corners of our world, most will go through their lives never knowing they exist. That’s why it becomes the responsibility of those who know to educate those who do not, without being offensive in their delivery of this information. Video game developers have, within reach of their games, the widest possible audience to receive a critical and, more importantly, uninvasive educational opportunity.

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But why stop there? While the majority of video game players are best if treated to a small dosage of education through a popular video game series, there are still those more courageous individuals who actively seek out ways to improve their understanding on life. And for them, there is certainly a market as well.
When you look through existing games for PC on publishing platforms such as Steam, occasionally strange titles will stand out; titles that would not strike most people as being particularly fun or engaging. However, these types of video games have a huge potential for conveying an even stronger message, by literally focusing entirely on the effort of placing the player within another’s shoes, without the comfort buffer of a fun experience.
One company that focuses on creating similar experiences is RealTime Immersive, who currently work with the military to train soldiers in how to engage with combat zones, submarine operators in how to repair underwater pipe leaks, and other similar professions. While these games’ purpose in most cases is in training, advancing technology makes it more and more reasonable that these experiences can extend beyond professional avenues along to the casual market looking to experience more. All it takes is a quick look at the submarine training video to see that the experience the player is given is a surprisingly realistic and believable step into the shoes of one of those operators. And gaming technology, combined with the advances in processing power, make it so that there are now virtually no limitations on the type of experiences that developers can deliver.

Perhaps it is possible to have a virtual experience where the player is made to live out a day in the life of a factory farm employee, removing dead and ill livestock before they infect the others, standing at the assembly line to kill and dismember the animals so they can be processed for packaging and shipment to stores… but rather than a Sim-like perspective of management and system efficiency, it would be a boots-in-the-mud perspective, allowing the player to truly observe the suffering that the animals are going through. Through such a scenario, players would come to question the morality of continuing to work in such a system, going through the same thought-processes of the real-life workers in similar situations. And the potential scenarios don’t end there. A player could choose to become an assistant to special needs individuals, getting to know the people underneath the disability, they could be tasked with the protection of villages from armed local militia in Africa, or they could learn about protecting endangered species by studying an ever-dwindling population. The possibilities are endless. They could even land a rover on mars!

The addition of a story would do much to make games like these more appealing to a wider audience as well. There are many films currently in existence that utilize engaging stories to cover topics that viewers might not otherwise choose to engage with.

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In this way, a choice to avoid viewing the horrors of factory farms could turn around and become a choice to view an interesting tragedy about an employee’s spiral into depression.

But this calls for another sort of change in the video game industry altogether, one which is nonetheless just as important as including lasting and meaningful messages… and that is the willingness to tell any kind of story.
Video games are the most effective medium for letting people see through the eyes of another, and yet the industry continues to walk an endless loop of shooting, flying, stabbing, racing, fighting, and mystery solving. But there are so many more experiences to be had from storytelling, and the video game industry currently has a massive void in its list of genres and the potential it has to relate to a wider variety of people.

For film, one doesn’t have to look far to discover the likes of I Love You Phillip Morris, Donnie Darko, and Lincoln to see entertaining peeks into the minds of individuals in various situations. While currently in the industry you will not find a game starring a gay man attempting to hide his sexual preference from his wife, a struggle with sanity in a high school setting, or a failing romance amidst political crisis, these stories can be told through gaming.
Not only can they be told, but they should be told. If we are to expand our understanding of the world, the only way to do that is to see more of it. As previously mentioned, video game players are in the unique position of being able not just to see more of the world, but to experience it as well.

While the system on which our video games are produced cannot survive a massive shift in the status quo taking place overnight, the best way to improve the world is not through a sudden forced shift in focus, but rather through the small efforts of each person, doing small things where they can, in whatever way they can. For game developers, the answer to the question of “How?” is right at their fingertips.

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When developers and publishers choose that they can not only improve their experiences through little, unintrusive but meaningful additions, but also have a lasting impact on society as a whole, then certainly the matter of when the time will be to begin this process fades from mind. Change on a large scale, no matter how long it takes, is a better reward than most individuals could ask for, and game developers are poised to be at the forefront of the movement, delivering the most powerful and important messages humanity has yet received from our arts.

All it takes is a few people willing to make the first, small step.