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In this last week I've been less and less tolerant of, well, most everything -- writing this comes toward the end of day of further intolerance. Timely then that I've just been pointed at this: Moral Combat, Why do liberals play computer games like conservatives?
I'm not going to get into arguing the politics or philosophy of the thing -- there are others far better suited. But Just a couple of observations...
I don't think this (which, by the way is an article about The Sims and to some extent Sim City, Civ and Call of Duty -- not video games) and its suggestion of games being anti-liberal is about game developers deliberately setting about making anti-liberal games. In the case of these games, they set about making simulations -- and, because we live in a conservative society, these __simulations__ simulate conservative tendencies.
As members of that merry system of reinforced groupthink and repressed individualism, the general populous thrive on being rewarded for being themselves. That ostensibly conservative actions are rewarded for the most part is somewhat irrelevant -- it's that people are doing well at simulating the real world. They're being validated as Citizens.
People like to pretend -- and generally their imaginations are limited -- get them to play something more abstract (like Love) and they're lost, get them to play something more removed from their reality (like Dragon Age) and they're put off by the fantasy and childish "make believe".
Call of Duty, is this context, is something of an anomaly here -- it's only conservative if you define violence (not the reasons for violence, but the act of violence itself) as something exclusively conservative. The context in the CoD games is generally too shallow to assess the reasoning for why -- only enough to suggest what. That it's so popular is as much about individuals’ generally power-derived pleasure and need for constant validation as it anything else.
Oddly enough, it's only The Sims (the primary reference material -- in fact the pivotal reference material) that I don't enjoy -- it provides me with no fun. Sim City and Civ I find enjoyable because I assert power over the game itself through my learning and digestion of the apparent complexity. Call of Duty I enjoy because of the more visceral development of skills and, yes, application of power.
In summation and argument for these games as an exploration of liberal and conservative methods, Greg proffers:
The lesson: Getting results from liberal policies takes a tremendously long time.
What nonsense: of course you are more likely to more rapidly succeed in a simulation of a conservative society by behaving conservatively.
Edward Castronova extends this further and asks if there are liberal and conservative moments in games -- and if incentives in games are strong enough to lure people into acting contrary to their moral commitments. Of course on the former - look for something and you'll find it. On the latter, well, yes - people naturally (it seems) want to perform better: if the games they play set about simulating a (conservative) reality, then acting (conservatively) will improve your performance.
Edward also suggests that research on Moral Foundations Theory by Jonathan Haidt is the "best thing yet offered on the difference between liberal and conservative thinking." If it's supposed to be in any way comprehensive, it seems to be wholly inadequate when I try to use it to describe my own "intuitive ethics".
Back to, er, reality
Like I said, if you'd like to read more of the normal excellent technical, game design and controversial game industry posts we normally write -- or watch more of the Game Dev in Motion video blog series we started recently, subscribe here by RSS or follow @36peas.
Thanks Miguel for setting up #idevblogaday. I'm excited that with the new rules we'll get a constant cycle of authors and content. Good luck to the rest of you, I look forward to welcoming you here in the short term - and back on the #idevblogaday list in the long term / long list.