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zike22

Alternate educational games

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I know this probably has been brought up plenty of times, but I was wondering about alternate educational games. Like games that bring up serious topics as a metaphor for the games story. Take the book animal farm for example, the whole story was a metaphor for the Russian revolution, why can't more games do something like that more often. The Oddworld series does this, which is great. Plenty of myths talk about things like hubris, and other human "flaws". Why doesn't/can't happen more often???

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I'd say it requires some pretty good writing to make something like that work. Let's face it: George Orwell isn't frequenting these boards. The best writers tend to express themselves through books or short stories, since those media aren't bound up with all the baggage and hassle that gameplay imposes.

Even if a great writer wrote a great story for a game, the pacing and structure would be shot to Hell by the game format. "Hey, that's a great story, with a lot of literary merit. Now, we just have to find a way to get pirate zombies in there, and include some kind of system by which the hero can buy bigger guns. Get to it." That's it for the story.

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Hmmm. That's a damn good point.

But i still think it's a good idea, it would be a way to get a story across to many more people and it would in a niche market all it's own. Animal farm could have been a damn good RTS/sim.

So I wonder would you say that, the problem lies in the difficultly of creating a good game, or is it that it's just not worth it to try because of the difficulty of creating a game??

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Original post by zike22
But i still think it's a good idea, it would be a way to get a story across to many more people and it would in a niche market all it's own. Animal farm could have been a damn good RTS/sim.


I have to disagree here, if in order for the story to be effective everything that happens of any consequence has to be predetermined. In an RTS/sim this isn't possible, in order to do this you have to take a lot of control away from the player. Often what makes a game fun is open-endedness, it's extremely difficult to have a strong story with a real purpose while keeping the game from turning into a computer animated movie.

example: Animal Farm Sim - what if the player chose not to run the farm the way Napoleon did in the book, how would the lesson be taught, you'd have to force the player to run the farm a certain way, then have a moral that admonished them for running it that way

I do think it's possible and positive to insert moral issues into a game, but making the story line revolve around them while still keeping the game fun and playable would be quite the challenge.

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Original post by cozman
Quote:
I have to disagree here, if in order for the story to be effective everything that happens of any consequence has to be predetermined. In an RTS/sim this isn't possible, in order to do this you have to take a lot of control away from the player. Often what makes a game fun is open-endedness, it's extremely difficult to have a strong story with a real purpose while keeping the game from turning into a computer animated movie.


What about Arthus in Warcraft 3, nobody told him to go evil he did it all himself, and I had plenty of control in the game. Warcraft 3 and Frozen throne weren't open ended at all and they were way more then an animated movie.

Halo wasn't open ended at all etheir, otherwise i would have had master cheif join up with the covenent and attack the humans.

The same thing could go down with a Animal Farm game.

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As a writer and the moderator of the writing forum, I think it's entirely possible to make game with profound and philosophical stories. It's even possible to make these games be non-linear, although that does make things more difficult. As I see it, the problem is money. If you look back through all the professional game job ads ever placed here, you will not find ONE where they are offering to hire a script writer. I'm working on both a novel and a game design project, and the game design project suffers from a lot more problems just because a professional-quality game take a lot of people a lot of time to make, and since I have no budget, my teammembers have no contractual obligation to turn in any work to me, and often don't. For the novel, at least I'm the only one I have to convince to sit my butt down and do some work.

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Original post by zike22
I know this probably has been brought up plenty of times, but I was wondering about alternate educational games. Like games that bring up serious topics as a metaphor for the games story. Take the book animal farm for example, the whole story was a metaphor for the Russian revolution, why can't more games do something like that more often. The Oddworld series does this, which is great. Plenty of myths talk about things like hubris, and other human "flaws". Why doesn't/can't happen more often???


There have been a few games that have done this to some degree. There's Chris Crawford's "Balance of Power", a sort of anti-war game set in the Cold War (which I haven't played), for example. Or my favourite Cold War themed game, Missile Command, which if you think about it is a deeply depressing game (your cities are eventually going to get nuked no matter how good you are). Usually most good RPGs will touch on some philosophical issues as well, such as what it means to be a human, or the nature of good and evil. There's also Fallout's handling of drug issues through gameplay mechanics, which I thought was rather well done.

But as sunandshadow says, it's all about the money. And for the commercial industry, it's considered a better investment to spend the money on saturation marketing, flashier graphics, or a big name movie licencing deal or voice acting talent since the impression is that sells more copies. It's hard to prove you've got a fabulous story (well, without ruining it), unless you hire a popular author to write your game (and often they aren't very good at interactive stories). I suppose it's up to the buying public to vote with their dollars what kinds of games we get, but I don't have to like it (sigh...)

Or I guess we could pressure the government to provide art grants for computer game development? [wink]

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I wonder if we're looking through the wrong end of the spyglass here? Orwell's story isn't what's important. The essence of Animal Farm is not about the specific sequence of events that occurred, it's about conveying a message. Orwell ultimately was using a metaphor to tell us that communism and capitalism were exploitative, and in an insidiously progressive fashion. If the gameplay fails to convey this, then I think the whole point of the exercise will be lost on players (that is, might as well create a regular game).

If you want to convey such an essential truth as exploitation as framed by Orwell, I think you'd be better off focusing on the gameplay mechanics and worldbuilding that will ultimately produce this experience/aesthetic. This is because reading about someone being exploited isn't nearly as powerful as the visceral feeling that comes from being exploited yourself.




Toward this end, you'd have to address a few aspects about the process of gaming and the culture of gamers themselves. There clearly are factors that make players more receptive to contemplation, and other factors which drive them away. Pacman, for instance, might have been a protest against consumerism, but we'll never know because the game's pace and presentation steered us in a totally different direction. How you allow gamers to solve problems, and the pace at which you demand they be solved will have a great deal of impact on who plays and whether or not they get the message. If you try to convey deep, thought-provoking material in a genre that is normally anti-intellectual (fighting games or RTS, for instance), you'll probably make nobody happy. As a rule of thumb, the faster the game, the less time you have to think about anything.

A story will probably not help you here, either. If you're telling me Orwell's story and then presenting me with RTS missions where I have to fight mice for milk and base-build a barn, I'm going to quite understandably grumble WTF and probably miss the big picture. Or, if the game is REALLY fun, I'll be so lost in the doing of the gameplay (what to click, where to go, what to plan for) that I won't have room to acknowledge deeper meaning. As it stands, most game stories are dramatically overrought, thematically immature, and hopelessly hamfisted when compared to literary works like A Tale of Two Cities or Crime and Punishment. This is not just a symptom of the audience, nor even just lack of funding. Rather its because of the disjoint nature of passively experiencing a story versus actively doing something in gameplay.




Btw, a game called Social Capital Monopoly is a great example of what I'm talking about: The game changes the standard rules of Monopoly to create statistically accurate class and culture-based starting points, and tweaks the game's normal rules for success (making it class based). If you're playing with the right people, it inspires commentary about the nature of society, which is what the designer intended.

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