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Persuasive Games: Designing For Tragedy
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Persuasive Games: Designing For Tragedy

June 13, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next

In one of the earliest mentions of the game, Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA) website GamePolitics was quick to condemn it for inviting scorn from politicians that might harm the industry. Wired games blogger Susan Arendt agreed, suggesting that “it's wrong to compare, however obliquely, a work of pure fiction to a game that turns the death of actual people into entertainment.” Others followed suit, in newspaper articles, in blogs, in comments on Lambourn’s website.

Today, a month after Lambourn first released the game, discussion of it has all but disappeared. Some might point to this fact in an argument for the game’s insignificance; it spurred little reaction save shock and disapproval. A web forum set up by a third party to discuss the game has logged no more than five total posts.

But I do not believe we ought to forget, or hide, or disavow this game.

In an edition of his regular column on politics and videogames from February 2007, Dennis McCauley wrote the following of Super Columbine Massacre RPG:

"…whatever Ledonne's purpose in creating SCMRPG, the negative mainstream publicity surrounding the controversial game is not good for the video game industry. Game publishers ought to be proactively making it clear that Super Columbine Massacre isn’t a product of their tribe.

Why? Because the idea that a game company might be so craven as to profit from the Columbine massacre is hurting the industry. Because non-gaming types simply don’t understand the difference between LeDonne's self-made art project and a multimillion dollar commercial game product like, say, Rockstar's Bully."

McCauley has evidence to back up his concern, including a Utah legislator’s mistaken identification of an ESRB rating for the game. But I object to his suggestion that creating a game that profits from Columbine would be a spineless act. More gutless is the industry’s general refusal to tackle the challenge of making games about thorny issues, or of McCauley and others’ tendency to support the industry over the medium.

If V-Tech Rampage offers an example of an unsophisticated, negligent take on the tragedy, what would a thoughtful, conscientious one look like? This question cannot afford to remain hypothetical any longer. So I hereby issue a challenge to the videogame industry: to create a videogame about the Virginia Tech tragedy. One worthy of reflection. One that captures the event’s despair as well as much as its brutality. One that the public can respect even if it makes them uncomfortable.

How would such a game tackle the issue respectfully? There are innumerable possibilities.

Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next

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