Darfur in a Larger Facilitation Context — How Games Spur Conversation, Dialogue

Darfur in a Nutshell:

Generally, I would have chosen an entirely new game to analyze for my first post, especially given that my first post did not involve a single specific game.  I want to begin with a discussion and analysis of the game we played in class, however. 

“Darfur is Dying” exemplifies exactly why this is a booming and fascinating industry.  The fact that discussion revolved around target audiences, and nearly half the class thought it was targeted to middle school students, while another half (which I originally, and to some degree, still do agree with) thought that no one under fourteen would be targeted, pinpoints exactly why we are having the discussion in the first place: perspective.

Does the use of a ‘donation’ button indicate older target audience, as I originally noted in class? Perhaps it is specifically a younger audience, but the button is used to engage parents.  In so doing, to tie to the assigned reading for the week, the rhetorical choices and strategic narrative decisions not only engage parents to donate, but the game serves as a facilitator, an opening for further discussion on the topic.

A facilitator.  The concept of rhetorical choice, and using narrative strategy was a genre that Bogost focused on, a facilitator is the one I am creating.  A game about shooting and killing may be said to further violence (and in terms of parental advisory standards, I happen to be on the conservative end, I do think ratings are important and CD labels should be kept), but can it not also facilitate conversation between parents and children? What about between children and their teachers, or school faculty?

For this post, I interviewed upwards of a dozen parents on their ideas.  My findings were incredible.  Most of the parents (I think 10 out of 12) had restrictions on both television and gaming for their children during the school week – not a surprising finding.  11 out of 12, however, all noted that gaming is one of the biggest facilitators for conversation at the dinner table, given that the ages of these children were between five and nine, and that 10 of them were male.  I realize this is not an incredibly unbiased sampling, nor that it was conducted well, but the facilitation point is clear – and not a point to be taken lightly.

If you are planning on designing a game, facilitate a conversation.  Or several.  Discussion and dialogue change the world – so too can your game spur a conversation that does.

  1. prutting834 said:

    Going off the original poster’s survey of parents, I find it very interesting that a great majority (10/12) of parents had restrictions on video games for their kids during the school week. This interests me because of my personal experience playing online games that are mostly rated “mature.” I have found that at least half of the people who play these mature-rated games while communicating through a headset are definitely not of the proper age to satisfy the rating. It is shocking how many kids who can’t be older than 8th graders are taking part in games rated for 18 year olds and up. These kids are clearly not old enough to buy the games in stores, which means that their parents knowingly and willingly bought these games for them. It brings up an interesting debate about whether or not games should even be rated anymore, as a majority of parents clearly ignore the ratings and buy games for their underaged kids. What are everyone’s thoughts on whether or not game rating systems are even necessary anymore?

  2. I believe they’re necessary as a guideline and necessary as a legal get-out clause for the producers. My parents certainly followed these guidelines closely after I got freaked out by Doom II as a kid. Had they followed them more closely, I could have been saved some sleepless nights, so there is a least a small degree of merit to them. Parents who may not be extremely familiar with the detailed content of the game can get an idea of how serious the content gets. If they choose to ignore them, that becomes their call. It also avoids claims that these games are being marketed to kids. If kids can’t buy them, they it can’t be directly sold to them, despite the lullabies Jack Thompson sings himself.

    I also think that the ratings let you know that a content of the game is recognized by the authors as something that isn’t admissible outside of the game environment. Marking a game as mature at least shows that the producers recognize the content of the game themselves. I’m be less inclined to purchase a game that involves guns and death and awful if I think the programmers might be putting it together with the mindset that these things are perfectly fine and normal and fun. Maybe it’s my own ethical safety net. I think I know these acts are only defensible fictionally, so I’d like to assume the programmers do too. In any case, the ratings give an impression of perspective.

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