In response to "A Slightly Serious Primer" from The Escapist Forum: I think a lot of people will read this article and go straight to the first sub-section. Personally, it was tough to concentrate on any other part of the piece after the initial "WTF" regarding a Columbine game. I have not had time to play it, and I'm not here to support or criticize the game specifically, but I do want to comment on it in another regard.
There is so much out there about it already, and very little is dedicated to the actual game-play. A few clicks around the net will lead to message board discussions from people that love it, hate it, hate the idea, or even completely miss the point of it.
My understanding is that the controversy over the game comes from a general perspective that a game such as this "trivializes" the incident. But, if society can comment on a game, why is it so impossible for a game to comment on society? Why do people believe that games inherently lack depth and serve only as a source of mockery of serious situations? What can be done to change this perception?
The problem is that games are 'fun' and nothing more. This stereotype is the biggest battle that gaming has been fighting for decades. What makes this such and uphill battle, however, is that, since the beginning of its history, the majority of games have been going strictly for the 'fun' factor. The most successful games have a tendency to locate within a fictional premise. Often, when a game takes place within a real time and scenario, the story is weak and takes a distant second to game-play. In some such games, the facts are not turned into a humanizing story, or the events are so deformed that the historical setting is flimsy.
Further, gaming often DOES trivialize matters. Log into Medal of Honor/Call of Duty/Counter-Strike/Operation: Desert Storm and have a good time. But, stop and think for a second while you are playing: What am I doing in this game, specifically? The answer: Killing lots and lots of enemies. When you play, do you bear in mind the lives that you ruin and end with each click of the mouse or push of a button? Probably not. (I know it's not a new argument, but it bears merit.)
Beyond gaming, though, trivializing such subjects is not uncommon. How many war movies are there that have faceless victims, keeping you on track, cheering for the protagonist as he wipes out more and more people? There are too many to count. The same goes for books, novels, short stories, et cetera.
The difference is that those media have gained a level of respect by the over-arching populous. One reason that respect has been earned is that many of those stories discuss important events and force the audience to feel. Real emotional experience is available in many films and books. Games, unfortunately, have not been able to emulate that level of response. Video games are still childish in their story telling and their ability to trigger emotion.
The fact that there are only a few games out there that make the player feel strongly for the characters and story reveals an overall inadequacy. We are talking about an interactive medium. I put myself into a world, and yet, even with my first-hand interaction with it, I come out with little more than a sense of accomplishment by the end.
To bring things back to last week's issue discussing film and games: If there is one thing that video games take most from Hollywood it's the cheesy, shallow feel-good ending. I love games, but every now and then I want an experience that holds more weight than the everyday fluff of a bad movie. I want controversy; I want discomfort, and I want sadness. I want a full range of emotions.