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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 3 of 3

As a university professor, I’ve felt the awkward uncertainty of the “Post-VT” academy first-hand. While I surely empathize with the families of the dead, I also often wonder about the surviving faculty at Virginia Tech who had encountered Cho. What kind of guilt must they feel? Is it justified? Term after term, class after class, how does one know for sure that a student is deeply troubled? How deep does it need to be to recommend intervention? What kind of intervention would it be? How do the institutional politics of the university facilitate or impede such actions?

What about Cho’s own family? Was their trust in the church as a solution to their son’s problems a pious act of devotion or a foolish and costly naiveté? How does their ethnicity contribute to the innocence or guilt they feel, or the blame they have received?

What does it mean that Cho was so frequently called the “South Korean Shooter” in the media, while Harris and Klebold were never labeled “Caucasian Shooters”?

What about the terror of Norris Hall, of being stuck in a compromised classroom with only moments to decide how to react, moments complicated by the fear and terror that undermines rational thinking? Is one’s fate a matter of luck alone, or a function of the physical properties of the building and the room?

What about the issue of campus security, previous threats, and the possibility that a lockdown would have prevented the worst of the casualties? How does one plan security and evacuation of a large, scattered environment like a university? Whose lives are more important during tragedy, students or faculty, staff or maintenance workers?

There is no timeframe for this challenge, no assumption about the number of months or years required to move from mourning to contemplation. But I mean it.

I challenge the industry to do better than the homebrew hacks McCauley would have us banish. I want a proper game, in a box, in the store, just like United 93 and Elephant and Munich share shelf space with Con Air and Bad Boys and Coyote Ugly.



All of the themes above, and many others yet unthought, are well within our means to implement. They do not require advances in rendering technology or novel input devices or upgraded physics middleware. They merely require the resolve to care about this tragic event enough to want to try to make sense of it, as best we are able, in our own medium.

Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

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