No matter how much you may want video games to be plainly fun and devoid of any ethical or moral message (If I had a dollar for every person who said that to me…) it will never happen. The statement is nonsensical on the order of whether or not God can make a rock bigger than He can lift. There’s a season in our lives where that statement might seem profound and ‘paradoxical’ but at some point we grow to understand it’s nothing more than semantic nonsense masquerading as deep insight.
- Every single video game includes a set of rules.
- Every rule implies an underlying assumption or statement about the game’s vision of its self-contained reality.
- Any collection of assumptions about reality is, by definition, a worldview.
- Ergo: every game explicitly or implicitly preaches its worldview to you.
Take The Sims for instance. Any male or female character can more or less pursue a romantic relationship with any other character – those are rules. The implication is that the characters have no built in sexual identity but rather it’s all a matter of choice or environmental influences. That’s a part of a larger worldview of the Sims that all come to describe a world that rewards certain things while punishing others, it allows certain things while diasllowing others – it, like every game, is constantly enforcing a very specific worldview through every interaction the player makes in that context. (You know what’s ironic here? I strongly suspect the makers would tell me that homosexuals are born that way and can’t change. That for them it’s not a matter of ‘choice’ though their game mechanic clearly implies that it is…but I digress.)
Now admittedly, different games do this to a greater or lesser degree…mostly lesser. But even pong is built on assumptions about what constitutes fair play and whether or not it’s ethical to compete and keep score…assumptions a lot of people are coming to disagree with these days.
This is no trivial or academic point, especially for us at Soma Games. As gaming grows and matures into the primary cultural medium of our generation its important to know the power of what we’re working with. It’s a well known axiom that games are some of the best learning tools ever created. So let’s get rid of the puerile notion that “it’s just a silly game” and wrestle with larger implications. At first that’s simply to be more cognizant of what we’re being taught but for content creators it’s also to embrace the deeper power of this medium and be willing to build our worlds with full awareness of the message we’re sending.