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GDC: Wright, Molyneux, Gordon, and Lanning on Games and Social Change
GDC: Wright, Molyneux, Gordon, and Lanning on Games and Social Change
March 27, 2009 | By Brandon Sheffield

March 27, 2009 | By Brandon Sheffield
More: Console/PC, GDC

It’s hard to imagine a more star-studded panel on games for social change than one which contains Peter Molyneux, Will Wright, Bing Gordon, and Lorne Lanning. Though the topics were rushed through due to time, and the entire discussion can’t be encapsulated here, each speaker shared a number of quotable statements.

Peter Molyneux

(on the current state of progressive games)“I think we’re doing pretty good. We have brain training, we have The Sims, we have lots of games that teach social messages. But one thing I think we’re not doing too well is games that can mix the old with the young. And is there a way that we can take someone from one nationality, and glorify their uniqueness [without pitting them against eachother].”

(on games’ impact on people) “If you walk away from a piece of entertainment and then look at yourself in a slightly different way, I think that’s great. And designing a game around that – that’s what parts of Fable are. I didn’t really think about this when I helped design it, it’s just part of what happened when developing the game.”

“If someone plays a game and walks away from it thinking ‘this must never happen in the world, or in my community,’ that’s a really amazing thing.”

(on multiplayer) “I think some interesting things are happening. Firstly everyone’s connected together now. Well most of them. We have cooperative games, and that’s really interesting. That’s a really good social bonding message behind there. I think you’ll find more and more things going behind that kind of cooperative experience. I think you’ll see more and more things talking about cultural differences and things. There’s a real positive thing there when someone from North Korea is meeting up with someone from America, and there’s a really positive thing to come from that.”

Will Wright

(on emotional impact) “One of the most emotionally powerful games I’ve ever played was when I first started playing Black and White. And just for the hell of it I was just harassing the hell out of these characters, and they were crying, and bruised, and I actually felt guilty. I never felt guilty watching TV, or a movie.”

(on repercussions) “I think violence in games is perfectly appropriate, but we never show the consequences.” “I think the rest of the game should show the rest of your life in prison!”

(on the future of socially progressive games) “I’d like to see World of Warcraft playable in flash, on facebook, where my kids and I can play together. Or Second Life done right.”

Bing Gordon

(on emotion)“I had three kids playing The Sims before it launched. And after about an hour watching fascinated, I went to go do adult things, and I heard a blood curdling scream.” Someone had bricked up his kid’s Sims mom in a room and killed her, Gordon explained. “A computer can make you cry, when Will has created a game.”

(on games as teachers) “Kids spend 25 hours a week in jail, what we call school, but I would submit kids learn more useful things in games than they do in school. I think it’s a better place to learn algebra, or reading, or in The Sims, it’s a better place to learn storytelling.” “We have more good game designers than the game industry needs, for the first time ever. We don’t need a bailout for the videogame business, we need videogames to bail out the culture.”

“I want to shout out to social games. I would submit that social games like on Facebook improve social relationships. We have a group of young people who have better social relationships than ever before. One measure of social games is that they don’t only let people have fun, but also get people to interact better.”

Lorne Lanning

(on disposable society) “We always have the tendency to look at entertainment like it’s food. If the wrapper is attractive enough, you can slip pure garbage in there.” And our society is reflecting the pure garbage input, he says. “When I look at it I think how do we engage in the first place? What is it that the market is eating, and how do we present something that’s interesting to them? The other thing is how well do you sleep at night. [When making Oddworld] we were told several times ‘you know, I feel great, I’m publishing a game that I can go home and show my kids.’”

(on games as teachers) “We could change the face of education, it could be console-based, but we don’t do it. Basically every church is tax-free, but if it comes to using technology to educate our kids, there’s no support.”

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