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View Diary: Would You Play a Video Game about Black Slavery and the Underground Railroad? (54 comments)

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  •  I believe the interactive medium can handle (2+ / 0-)
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    Fair Economist, LucyandByron

    any subject matter and, done right, could be an incredibly powerful way of talking about complex, painful and / or horrifying topics.

    The "done right" part is, of course, the kicker there - and it's certainly just as personal and subjective a judgment as any other medium. What one smart, passionate person finds genuinely offensive may be a liberating, truth-telling experience for another, equally smart, passionate person. And while that divide may be drawn sharply along racial, class, gender or any other lines, it isn't always (hello, looking at you "Django Unchained"...).

    All mediums have to mature and come into their own, and as they do so, their ability to do justice to complex and painful subjects grows. Films used to be short, silent and slight novelties. Comics used to be the "funny papers" or superhero epics. We take it for granted now that film is one of the most powerful and rich mediums to tell stories (and histories) in, and graphic novels are now created that can talk eloquently and explore any subject in the world.

    Of course, artistic evolution isn't just a nice smooth line and some pretty amazing things can be produced early on in any medium's life. And what I'm talking about is an evolution of artistic capability - even in the era of "Black Hole," "Maus" and "Persepolis," we still have Beetle Bailey and Superman comics and we likely always will. What is certainly true is that both of these mediums have evolved in ways their original audience (and creators) may never have dreamed of.

    I feel strongly that this is what we've begun to see with videogames. Telling stories visually and sequentially on paper was never inherently only capable of giving you a daily chuckle or fulfilling your inner (or outer) 12-year-old's male power fantasy. And so the term "comics" became less and less descriptive and more of a vestigial term - there ain't a damn thing funny about Auschwitz, but "Maus" is one of the most powerful testaments to the Holocaust ever created. And so the term "comics" started to morph into "comix" or the more formal "graphic novels" or even just "sequential art."

    The same thing's happening with videogames. Now don't get me wrong, I love me some "Super Mario Brothers" and couldn't get enough of Ms Pac-Man back in the day, but they really are mainly really fun diversions for kids and inner kids. Now take a look at the hauntingly beautiful and mournful "Dear Esther," or the domestic trauma and healing that are at the center of "Papa & Yo" or the spiritual grandeur of "Journey." And, as you mention, even fantastic mainstream entertainments like "Bioshock" are capable of saying a whole lot about (in this case) ideological extremism and the way societies fall apart. Again the original term for the medium - "games" in this case - is starting to be a worse and worse fit for the medium's most beautiful, poignant and thought-provoking products. Hence videogame critics have stopped asking so often whether a single work is or isn't "a game" and have starting using more accurate (though less concise) terms like "the interactive medium."

    Is "Dear Esther" a game? Well, it's sure built out of a modification of sci-fi masterpiece "Half Life 2." How about "Journey?" Well, you are jumping and flying and solving puzzles to get from point A to point B. But anyone who came into either of these "games" expecting the quick, accessible fun of Ms Pac-Man or Space Invaders would sure be in for a surprise...

    "Republicans Vote To Repeal Obama-Backed Bill That Would Destroy Asteroid Headed For Earth." 2/2/11 The Onion

    by brooklyns finest on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 01:39:09 PM PST

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