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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

CEP 818: How Do I Love Thee:Modeling

When I think of social injustice and modeling, I thought of some games I recently found out about at the Meaningful Play conference I attended at MSU recently. I began looking at various websites (Games for Change) and found a few very powerful games that I decided best represent the idea of Modeling (combining abstract thinking with analogy and embodiment). If I were a game designer, I would create one to share with you!  Although I do feel I am a creative person, I believe that creating a true model of a game to illustrate social injustice topics would take me years!  So I have picked a few games to share that I believe would really reinforce my topic well.

!) A Closed World

Play game online here

This information was shared on Games for Change Website about this game:

"Like most game prototypes created by the students at the GAMBIT Game Lab, A Closed World was designed to explore and research different aspects of games, in this case, the lack of compelling video game content for LGBTQ youth (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer).
A Closed World takes the gameplay aesthetics and mechanics of “JRPGs” (Japanese role playing games) and puts you in control of a character of ambiguous gender that begins exploring a forest on the edge of town. Disregarding rumors of “demons” that exist in the forest who have the ability to “destroy” your village, your character must overcome the hardships of a forbidden relationship by exploring what lies inside the forest. Through this journey, players battle the forest’s “demons” and the ideals they are trying to force upon them. The players’ only defense is their logic, passion, ethics, and the ability to remain calm during conflict. As “demons” attack with their beliefs, they must fight back and defy their ideas of what’s “normal” and what love is supposed to look like."

Here is a trailer to the game if you don't want to play it right now. 

While playing this game (self-disclosure I do not identify as being an LGTB person but I did feel a small amount of the pain and suffering one would feel confronting issues of discrimination, stereotyping, etc. presenting in the game).  The emotional responses I had confronting the demons in the game actually surprised me. Having the demons degrade me, put me down and experiencing them as being 5 times larger than my character really put things into perspective for me on the topic of social inequalities. I felt as though this is an excellent game to use in the classroom or as homework even to generate discussion on the societal views of LGTB people and perhaps even evoke discussion regarding the local communities treatment of, policies that support or discriminate against LGTB people.

2) The Curfew

Play the game online here

This information is shared on the Games for Change website:

"The Curfew is an online interactive drama created by Littleloud, published by Channel 4 and written by comic book author, Kieron Gillen. The Curfew addresses a range of political themes targeted at young people, challenging them to examine the freedoms they currently enjoy and the potential consequences if they do not protect them.
The story starts as the player receives important data from a mysterious contact. The contact persuades the player to pass on the data to somebody who will use it to bring down the out of control government. The player proceeds to a safe house where they meet 4 Sub-citizens who are avoiding curfew. Each Citizen has a different story and reason for being in the house that night.
Over four Episodes, the player will play through the flashbacks of the four characters: Lucas the boy, Aisha the immigrant, Leah the dissident and Saul the ex cop. By exploring the interactive 3D environments, conversing with characters, playing mini games and solving puzzles the player will progress through the game. There are 3 scenes in each episode and each scene is followed by an interactive questioning round back at the safe house. The player can question the character on the action they have just experienced and will either receive or lose the character’s trust depending on the questioning tactics they employ. These sequences will decide which character ending they will receive. The Curfew includes a range of digital techniques including 3D sets, dynamic composition and seamlessly integrated live action footage"

 Here is the trailer to the game if you don't want to play it right now: 

With all the current events about the United States becoming more of a police state (drones, the Patriot Act, recent legislation allowing the government to read your emails, etc.) I believe this game illustrates many sociological topics-freedom, social injustice, etc.  Again, playing this game in class or as homework can really allow a discussion about this topic to be facilitated through experiences. When I played this game, I could see how my choices really effected the outcome of the story. However, since this game used videos of "real people" instead of just computer animated characters it humanized the experience a little more for me.

I think that both of these games allow the student to have an emotional experience with these topics and model the situations others face daily when they deal with them. Since my topic is not math, science or subject matter that is always "definitive" it is a different process for me to model the material. When a student simply reads a chapter about discrimination or authoritarian control and is able to recite the theories involved, he or she has learned information. However, when a student plays a game they are able to put those theories into practice and see the results of their choices immediately. While both of them games have scripts and don't allow for complete free thinking, they do model typical responses that the average person would most likely take. Enabling the student to still have choices over how they play the game is an example of our everyday real world experiences that shape sociological theories and norms.

These two games are just an example of the games on Games for Change's website. They have dozens of other choices that teach important lessons (hence the web site's name) and I encourage you to visit their site. 

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