Games, what are they good for? (AKA, when can games make a change?)

I’ve been thinking about writing this post since late Sunday because this has been bothering me since then. I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but I live outside the entire “game development bubble.” Basically, this means I come from a different culture, I see things differently than most of you and I think of issues that some others don’t think about.

The title of this post is “games, what are they good for?” because I’ve read many things about how games can make a change, help causes, and things like that. There’s even a gaming ambassador who’s helped advance games to a better place. However, what happened on Sunday March 9th, made me ask myself these questions.

So, what happened anyway?

On that date we had presidential elections, and they were what we call a “second round” (not sure if the same term applies to other countries), and basically it means nobody won the elections (they were held on February), so we had to vote again this past Sunday. The left wing guy won for roughly 6000 votes, and the right wing guy was really pissed off.

At around 10 pm the right wing candidate gave an speech, where he said many things including “according to our data, we won the elections so we will defend this victory, even with our lives,” “we, and the 1,300,000 people who voted for us are at the brink of war,” and “our armed forces are ready to take action on this matter.” I need to mention the right wing guys are the ones who usually declare themselves as lovers of peace and democracy.

If you understand Spanish and want to see the speech for yourself, click here.

In our country we had a civil war during the 70’s and 80’s. I am not interested on a history lesson (you can always use Google and Wikipedia to know more) so I will just say that’s where the left wing party started to take shape (they were a guerrilla, and now they are a political party), and the ring wing party (the one participating on this week’s elections) had their own clandestine armed forces known as Escuadrones de la Muerte (Death Squads). I don’t think I need to tell you what they were for.

That happened less than 30 years ago, so when someone says they will declare war, we take that VERY seriously. When someone from the right wing party declares they will call their armed forces, many of us automatically think of the Death Squads. The thought of having a second civil war is not a pleasant one.

And the question was?

My question is simple. During that time, there were clandestine publications, radio stations, protest music and things like that, that were used to spread ideologies and, well, protest against different things. When I say “games, what are they good for?” is because I wonder if games can be used for the same things, but more importantly, I wonder how that would work because the demographic is people who are mostly into games for entertainment.

I can make a game about problems the society in my country face every day, a game about “political correctness” or a game that shows why we don’t want another war. I believe those games could deliver a message, but it’s valid to ask how many would “understand” what the game is for compared to those who would complain because “the AI sucks” or “those graphics are so PS1.”

At the end of the day I wonder when games can make a change, and when they are just a piece of entertainment.

And now, you can listen to the song.


~ by nemirc on March 13, 2014.

One Response to “Games, what are they good for? (AKA, when can games make a change?)”

  1. As a game developer, one of the questions I ask myself when working projects is “How can I use this game to create good in the world?”. I’d argue that games are already changing the world. Jane McGonigal is the designer of SuperBetter, which helps people find the resolve to overcome an illness or achieve a certain health goal.

    Have games prevented wars from breaking out? I don’t know. There is an interesting article on Polygon that discusses the cathartic power of violent games, and how high sales of video games coincide with lower crime rates. It doesn’t confirm that high video game sales are causal of lower crime rates. However, it is an intriguing set of data that might speak to video games’ inhibitory properties.

    If you’re interested, here is the article:

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