Why do we play video games? What can the experience offer us? In an increasingly fragmented world, is there something tangible that we can learn from gaming? Four video game developers offer up their take…
“We appreciate and value the space that gaming takes up in many societies. Games can be adventures, novel experiences, or a refuge. They can be a place for reflection, accomplishment, or a space to enjoy the company of others. Like movies, games can speak volumes—there is something immensely powerful in placing a player in a contained environment where they get to experience something “first-hand”.
Games can afford amazing player-to-player interactions, where distance and differences are erased, by providing a controlled space where players work together. The game Journey by thatgamecompany is a great example of this. Players meet each other in the game’s universe and accompany each other on an arduous journey. The only form of communication they have with each other is singing. This gaming experience is beautiful in its stripped-down simplicity, every small interaction is as meaningful as the players decide them to be. Experiences like this also helps us see the world in a new light. There is beauty and compassion to be found in the smallest of interactions.
There is innovation in the gaming world that shows what we as people can do. We can create, we can experience, we can collaborate. There is a certainty in that—and it is beautiful.”
Other Tales Interactive is a Danish/Swedish independent game studio that makes experimental story driven games. Their latest game – Tick Tock – won Google Play’s award for Most Inventive game in 2019.
“Video games are good at several things, and one of them is simulating complicated systems. And a lot of things in the world around us are systems: democracy, economics, societies… or even social media. Yet, I don’t believe video games can simulate the real word in its whole complexity – and even if they technically could, I don’t think they should. Systems in games are first and foremost here to prove a point: when you play them, you gradually understand them, and master them, then you can progress more safely in the world they rule on. It’s this kind of systems analysis that can be a precious piece of knowledge in the world we live in.
Our world is uncertain because it has a lot of moving parts, and because an action may have very distant and unforeseen consequences. But playing games teaches us to identify links between concepts, to adapt, to anticipate – in a word, to be resilient when facing uncertainty – and even enjoy it! I don’t think games are the answer to everything when it comes to educating people for the complex world ahead, but I’m positive they can be an important piece of the puzzle.”
Florent Maurin is a former journalist who founded The Pixel Hunt, whose focus is on reality-inspired games.
“Games have a unique opportunity to allow people to experience circumstances that are not their own. Crucially, games not only allow players to view those different situations (as books, movies and comics allowed for many years), but they allow us to live through them. And from that, almost, first-hand experience, growth, fresh perspectives or compassion may come.
This War of Mine showed us what it’s like to be a civilian during war, a topic depicted in media of all kinds many times before and overused in constant streams of 24 hour news broadcasts to the point that some of us may have become de-sensitised to the suffering of others, treating it just as a constant chatter on the TV, as a background to our everyday lives. Suddenly a game (which I experienced as a player, not a developer) put me in the middle of things, asking me what is moral in times of great distress, making me steal from others for the benefit of my own little dwellers. It reminded me (and not only me) that behind those pictures on TV are people making life and death decisions on a day-to-day basis, in circumstances that are unimaginable for me.
And in my perspective this is how games can help. Through meaningful design and by asking the player with questions that will still be relevant when he/she turns of his PC/Console, they offer us a fresh perspective of their own life and the lives of others. And maybe, if we are lucky, more compassion and understanding toward one another.”
Marta is currently the lead designer at Polish game-maker 11 bit studios. She was responsible for dreaming up the Societies and the Book of Laws in Frostpunk, a MEDIA-funded and BAFTA-nominated survival game.