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virginia tech memorial game

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Is anyone planning or working on a game that treats the Virginia Tech shootings with the seriousness and respect the subject deserves? I was reminded today of the ridiculous VT game that's already out, as well as the Columbine game, and thought about what game developers can do to address these issues productively. We can complain about how games aren't treated as art, how they're scapegoated by ignorant politicians and the general public, and we can tell them that games are worthy of the same consideration other more established forms of media are. We are responsible (to the extent that a community can be responsible for the actions of a few of its members) for games that make light of and exploit terrible tragedies. We as game designers are responsible for the way games are viewed, treated, and ultimately accepted by the public. We have to demonstrate to the public that games are a worthy medium for expression and exploration of serious ideas. My idea is for an adventure game set on the VT campus. The goal of the game is to travel to different buildings and areas of the campus, talking with various people, to collect the materials necessary to construct a Virginia Tech Memorial to the victims of the shootings. I think would be great, with the permission of the victims' families of course, to include some of the victims as characters in the game. The player could learn about them as individuals, their likes and dislikes, about their major, and perhaps something about VT history or culture. Once the player has collected the materials and completed the memorial, they can list their name and school (if they attend one) on an online leaderboard, which can become a virtual memorial to the victims. In this way, play can become collaborative (get as many people as possible to complete the game to list their name in remembrance of the victims), and competitive (which school can have the most participants). I know there are games that address serious issues, but many of them have a political agenda, and I believe it's important for a memorial to be free of agendas (except perhaps anti-violence). I think this would be a great way to demonstrate that games have more to offer society than being simple "murder simulators" and can feature constructive, rather than destructive goals. I hope there's something like this going on already, but I searched and couldn't find anything. Does anybody have any other thoughts?

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Are you sure that we NEED to make a game based on Virginia Tech? Wouldn't the most respectful thing be to just let them mourn in peace?

I kind of feel like we are at Bob's Blinking Neon Sign Emporium, and we're asking the question, "How can we make a blinking neon sign that treats the Virginia Tech shootings with the respect it deserves?"

I understand the need to prove that games are art, but a VT game seems like the wrong approach for the wrong time. It feels like you're trying to profit from their tragedy, whether or not that's your real motivation.

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I probably wouldn't have thought of it if I hadn't heard about the other incredibly offensive game somebody else made in a transparent attempt to make money (send money and I'll take it down).

Conventional memorials typically don't charge admission, and I wouldn't dream of trying to make money from such an online effort (unless it would be donated to the families).

I do understand your point about "what does this have to do with games," though.

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To be blunt, I think its a dumb idea and I don't see any real artistic merit to it.

The premise is "Build a virtual memorial and sign the leaderboard." To what end? Sure you learn about the people and campus along the way, but in what way does that tie into the random outburst of violence? Learning about the victims isn't art, its more like trivia. I'm sure there were many wonderful individuals that lost their lives that day, and by no means was that trivial, but I fail to see how learning random facts about them is really a way to be memorialized. There's no real ability to form an emotional bond through facts alone.


Super Columbine RPG at least approached the subject with some introspection. It was partly satire and the medium in which it was expressed was itself part of that because of all the fingers pointed at videogames after that shooting. Another key factor making the video game an appropriate medium was the interactivity, because it forced you to "pull the trigger" by pressing a button, with the intent to make you examine your emotions over doing so. It also attempts to examine the possible motives of the killers and goes as far as to hint how the whole thing may have been avoided.


I don't necessarily think a video game like the one you describe would be disrespectful, but I do think there are better ways to memorialize them and to express your sympathy. Get involved with the real effort to memorialize the victims or, for the socio-politically inclined, get involved with whatever policies that have been brought to the forefront which you feel strongly about; be it anti/pro gun-control, better mental health services for state-funded schools, or whatever else. Research and write an essay about the victims as people and the impact on their families and friends, narrative is a far better medium for expressing this information than an interactive medium like video games.

Your heart seems to be in the right place, but I think there are more effective and appropriate mediums for you to express yourself.

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ravyne2001, I appreciate your well-considered response, if not your bluntness :)

You ask "to what end" should an online virtual memorial be built for the victims?

Memorials are generally devoted to the memories of victims of a tragedy, not to "examine the motives of the killers". They don't exist to force the viewer or participant to understand, but to simply reflect on lives lost.

To me, this is a valid goal for a game to attempt to achieve.

I agree with your statement that: "there's no real ability to form an emotional bond through facts alone." And yet at many memorials there are photos of the people being remembered, and for some people those pictures are surprisingly poignant. In this game, victims might appear as full-fledged characters with whom you can interact, not just a stat-sheet with blood type and shoe size.

You suggest instead to "get involved with the real effort to memorialize the victims". I am talking about a real effort in a virtual space. There are other successful online memorials such as the Officer Down Memorial Page (http://www.odmp.org/).

Of course anyone who attempted to make a game about this event to further a political view would be (rightly?) roundly castigated.

I remain unconvinced that "there are more effective and appropriate mediums". As you mentioned, games have a powerful element of interactivety, which can be used to express many different ideas. How can we most effectively and sensitively elicit mourning, regret, sympathy, and remembrance in players?

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Why dont we just make a game to commemorate people in Iraq? Or people who starve every day? Tons of people die daily. Making a video game about it wont stop it.

Sure, its hard. Its horrible. But you know what, it happened, and something is already being done about it. Its none of my business, and probably not yours, to have any say whatsoever in what kind of memorial should be built.

Let them be mourned by families, and loved ones.

Now if you want to create a game thats more of an art, or you want to create a game that makes videogames not the scape-goat, go right ahead, but as its been said, this isnt the time or place to do it.

Sorry if I seem-harshish, but still, I stand strongly on this opinion.

Someone close to me died this year, you dont really want to tell people you barely know, because they have no clue how you feel, or who that person is. It gets annoying, to say it bluntly. So unless your family was direcetly involved, I say dont go for it.

Your cause is just, but its not the right move. Money doesnt make up for the loss of a child, brother, sister, or cousin.

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Okay, forget about my idea.

Eddie R Inzauto - Senior Editor, GameWad.com, writes about VTech Rampage:

"Could we be seeing a more sophisticated and meaningful video game depiction of this event in the future? It would be nice, because as it stands, Lambourn's work only provides ammunition to anti-gaming legislation."

http://www.gamewad.com/vtech-rampage-creator-posts-ransom-scmrpg-creator-responds-3441-p.html

What does that "more sophisticated and meaningful video game" look like? That's my real question.

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Original post by bdoskocil
What does that "more sophisticated and meaningful video game" look like? That's my real question.
Uh, well, first off it doesn't capitalize on human tragedy like this does. You ask "how do we make a game about VA Tech that isn't exploitative", but if you've started with VA Tech and built a game around it, rather than starting with a game and realizing that VA Tech is the best setting for it, you're already guilty of exploitation.

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Original post by bdoskocil
Once the player has collected the materials and completed the memorial, they can list their name and school (if they attend one) on an online leaderboard, which can become a virtual memorial to the victims. In this way, play can become collaborative (get as many people as possible to complete the game to list their name in remembrance of the victims), and competitive (which school can have the most participants).


That is so crass and insincere. If people are to sign a memorial, it shouldn't be because they beat some game, or so thier school can beat another school...they should sign it out of genuine sincere empathy. And they shouldn't have to jump through your game's unjustifiable hoops to do so.



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Personally, I don't care for the idea of making games out of tragic events. I cringe every time I see a new game based on some real-life past war. Some things just shouldn't be turned into amusements.

But thats just my opinion.

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A "memorial" game isn't as disgusting as a "rampage" game, but unless all of the proceeds from the game are sent to the victims of the tragedy, it's still exploitative. Don't turn game making into a form of ambulance chasing.

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Original post by LessBread
A "memorial" game isn't as disgusting as a "rampage" game, but unless all of the proceeds from the game are sent to the victims of the tragedy, it's still exploitative. Don't turn game making into a form of ambulance chasing.


For the record, I never said anything about making money in my original post, nor do I think it's a good idea. It goes against the idea of opening the experience up to anyone who wants to participate in a community effort. And it's obviously exploitative.

I hope most people will at least credit me with good intentions, even if my methods seem to be universally derided.

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I completely agree with Hushed.

Unless you are directly involved with the event it's best to leave it well alone. Let people be in peace.

As for the VT Rampage game. It was developed by a naive, spoiled kid in my opinion. He was later quoted as saying the "give me money and I'll remove it" demand was a joke in an attempt to prove some point, but largely hes just an idiot and is getting more publicity than he deserves.

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Original post by bdoskocil
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Original post by LessBread
A "memorial" game isn't as disgusting as a "rampage" game, but unless all of the proceeds from the game are sent to the victims of the tragedy, it's still exploitative. Don't turn game making into a form of ambulance chasing.


For the record, I never said anything about making money in my original post, nor do I think it's a good idea. It goes against the idea of opening the experience up to anyone who wants to participate in a community effort. And it's obviously exploitative.

I hope most people will at least credit me with good intentions, even if my methods seem to be universally derided.


Fair enough. I'm not directing this next remark at you, but I think we should remember that in the aftermath of the Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, con-men set up bogus aid agencies to collect donations. A "memorial" game has the potential to serve just such a scam.

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Original post by bdoskocil
I hope most people will at least credit me with good intentions, even if my methods seem to be universally derided.

I guess. Do you suppose that the plumbers of the world are wondering how to use plumbing as a positive force in the wake of the tragedy?

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Original post by Sneftel
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Original post by bdoskocil
I hope most people will at least credit me with good intentions, even if my methods seem to be universally derided.

I guess. Do you suppose that the plumbers of the world are wondering how to use plumbing as a positive force in the wake of the tragedy?


No.

Nor are they struggling to define and defend their medium's valuable contributions to society.

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Original post by Sneftel
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Original post by bdoskocil
I hope most people will at least credit me with good intentions, even if my methods seem to be universally derided.

I guess. Do you suppose that the plumbers of the world are wondering how to use plumbing as a positive force in the wake of the tragedy?


No.

Nor are they struggling to define and defend their medium's valuable contributions to society.

Do you have any personal attachment to the shootings at VA Tech? Do you know any of the victims? Have you been affected by any other similar shootings? The idea of making a "memorial" game if you can't relate to the incident seems insincere at best.

Danny Ledonne (SCMRPG!) was a Colorado student social-outcast who could relate to the columbine shooters, and his personal experiences are what made SCMRPG! sincere and thought provoking. Ryan Lambourn (VT Rampage) was in no way affected by the VT shootings, his game is purely exploitative.

Which one do you think you would resemble more, if you were to make this game?

Quote:
We have to demonstrate to the public that games are a worthy medium for expression and exploration of serious ideas.

...

I think this would be a great way to demonstrate that games have more to offer society than being simple "murder simulators"

...

Nor are they struggling to define and defend their medium's valuable contributions to society.

I don't doubt you have good intentions. But it sounds like you want to make this game to "prove" that games have social worth. Are you the right person to do that, in the context of the VT shootings?

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Original post by JBourrie
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Original post by bdoskocil
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Original post by Sneftel
Quote:
Original post by bdoskocil
I hope most people will at least credit me with good intentions, even if my methods seem to be universally derided.

I guess. Do you suppose that the plumbers of the world are wondering how to use plumbing as a positive force in the wake of the tragedy?


No.

Nor are they struggling to define and defend their medium's valuable contributions to society.

Do you have any personal attachment to the shootings at VA Tech? Do you know any of the victims? Have you been affected by any other similar shootings? The idea of making a "memorial" game if you can't relate to the incident seems insincere at best.

Danny Ledonne (SCMRPG!) was a Colorado student social-outcast who could relate to the columbine shooters, and his personal experiences are what made SCMRPG! sincere and thought provoking. Ryan Lambourn (VT Rampage) was in no way affected by the VT shootings, his game is purely exploitative.

Which one do you think you would resemble more, if you were to make this game?

Quote:
We have to demonstrate to the public that games are a worthy medium for expression and exploration of serious ideas.

...

I think this would be a great way to demonstrate that games have more to offer society than being simple "murder simulators"

...

Nor are they struggling to define and defend their medium's valuable contributions to society.

I don't doubt you have good intentions. But it sounds like you want to make this game to "prove" that games have social worth. Are you the right person to do that, in the context of the VT shootings?


I do not have any direct personal attachment to the VTech shootings, although, like most people, I have lost somebody close to me. I don't think, however, that that should determine my sincerity.

In actuality, I never intended to make this game personally, but rather to discuss how somebody might make such a game, and what it might look like. The consensus seems to be it's not possible (at least by me).

I suppose I'm not the right person to attempt it, since I seem to be having a difficult time even convincing people of the value of attempting it, so I will now withdraw and leave the discussion to others.

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Original post by bdoskocil
I suppose I'm not the right person to attempt it, since I seem to be having a difficult time even convincing people of the value of attempting it, so I will now withdraw and leave the discussion to others.


Because the value you see in attempting it is showing that games are truly "Art" with a capital "A".

You said yourself that these games should not have a political agenda; promoting games as Art is political. Do not exploit the situation for your political agenda.

There are two situations in which I think such a work is appropriate:

1) You were deeply touched by the tragedy and felt the need to express your feelings in a work of art and, being a game designer, you naturally made a game.

2) Someone who was deeply touched by the tragedy approached you and comissioned a game in memory of the tragedy.


You want to know how to do it right? You said that you've lost someone close to you; make a game about losing that person.

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The interesting point that this discussion brings to mind for me is the unusual position games are in, where such creations as the poor-taste Virginia Tech thing are viewed as an appropriate comparison to serious or well thought out artistic games. It seems to me that it would be similar to condemning the film industry based on a "Man gets hit in the groin by a football" clip on Youtube. The games industry really needs new terminology or other measures to seperate itself in peoples' minds from these 5-seconds-of-effort pieces of self gratification.


That said, at the same time I dont necessarily see an inherent problem with basing a game on events of that nature. While many people respond to the event with raw emotion and tend to show a dislke for anything related to the event, be it well intentioned and thoughtful or crass and thoughtless, I think the fact that the subject matter is confrontational is a sign that a game could be created which has a useful and well intentioned message. I think it could actually be more effective because of the high profile and confrontational nature of the content - confrontation causes such strong reactions because it challenges people to think about things, and that isnt always a bad thing.

And I think that the OP could be right about its relevance to artistry and integrity in the games industry. Sure, it is a very difficult subject to approach, and there are an awful lot of ways to do it wrong; but I think that is part of what is involved in art - the subject is deep and complex, and does hold some worthwhile messages, such as (off the top of my head) commentary on compassion and the dangers of teen depression, to balance out the more purely violent or hurtful aspects - the ability to apply insight and form a positive message from something like this is what I would consider a key aspect of many forms of art.

As others have pointed out, though, it would need to come from a true artistic vision of the message to convey, rather than the viewpoint of "this is an opportunity to do something artsy".

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Original post by caffiene
The interesting point that this discussion brings to mind for me is the unusual position games are in, where such creations as the poor-taste Virginia Tech thing are viewed as an appropriate comparison to serious or well thought out artistic games. It seems to me that it would be similar to condemning the film industry based on a "Man gets hit in the groin by a football" clip on Youtube.


No, it's either:

1) If you're referring only to the poor-taste VT game, it's like condemning a film on YouTube gleefully reenacting the shootings for being in poor taste.

2) If you're regerring to the thread as a whole, it's like condemning the film industry for making a memorial video to prove that films can appropriately treat serious subjects.

Both of which I think are condemnable.

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I don't see a bunch of photographers trying to make beautiful art to justify their art in the face of goatse or tubgirl. Sensible people are clearly capable of seeing these as random acts of offensiveness done by people, not their medium.

But then again, I'm one of those whacko's who believe such offensiveness should be free to exist despite it.

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Put two games on a double sided dvd, one game on each side. On side A put the rampage game, on side B put the memorial game that enables the player to atone for all the people killed in the rampage game... and then send a check or money order to Cohn Mann P.O. Box 12345 Rip Off City, USA.

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