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Political Gaming

A look at ResistJam, Indiecade and Polititruth by Georgina Macrae

IndieCade and ResistJam

IndieCade is an international festival of independent games. From their website, the festival “encourages, publicizes, and cultivates innovation and artistry in interactive media, helping to create a public perception of games as rich, diverse, artistic, and culturally significant.” Submissions in 2017 ran until 31st June and a selection of the games, which had been submitted before 19th May, went to the e3 (see below.) IndieCade supports breadth of ideas and independence of thought and design. Their platform unites disparate games so the selection each year cannot be predicted, nor be fit into a box.

#ResistJam is a similar idea, but is a ‘jam’ where people create games in a short space of time (208 submissions in the ten day period this year!) ResistJam’s motive for existing and collecting games is that “The global political climate grows increasingly terrifying by the day. We want to empower people to resist through the power of interactive media.”

e3 — the Electronic Entertainment Expo

e3 is hosted by esa, the Entertainment Software Association, in Los Angeles. e3 2017 took place on June 13th-15th. It is an international games summit — Nintendo, Ubisoft, EA, Sony and other big publishers share there new hardware and software with the media and public, with other hardware and software also being showcased.

With Nintendo’s Super Mario Odyssey proving very popular at the expo; Indiecade’s games were given comparatively next to zero attention. However, they were still spotted by a BBC technology reporter and make there way onto that news platform. Will Mario games continue to surprise and capture the attention of gamers or will it eventually lose strength next to more socially-minded and political games in the future? Similarly, will this distribution of interest be changed by one game which proves hugely popular by chance or can the shift be measured and gradual, following a trend rather than suddenly flipping the scale?

Considering the smaller budgets for #ResistJam and #IndieCade games, it seems unlikely for them to ever gain the media attention or gamer attention of Nintendo and other game producers. The graphics may be interesting for their simplicity or sensible innovations, but not impressive or attention-worthy in the same way as the graphics of games for the 3DS or X-box-One.

Would the world of games be more complicated if they all have a political message?

Games which make a social or political comment aren’t likely to become a sensation on the same scale as Rovio Entertainment’s Angry Birds, which went straight to №1 at the box office in 52 countries. But the organisers of IndieCade and ResistJam both believe in a gradual seeping in of political ideas in the world of gaming and are trying to catalyse it.

Dave Lee, North America technology reporter for the BBC, wrote on 17th June 2017 (find it here) that it is unlikely for large, well-established gaming companies to go for controversial topics, because they may lose popularity and gaining media coverage would do damage rather than good. Especially with the new consoles Nintendo Switch (released March 2017) and XBox One X which will be released in November — companies are safer sticking to what they know to ensure steady sales. Developing any controversial ideas and advertising them will lose the interest of some gamers and also adding a message within games will imply that the company believes the message of the game, as they will put their name to it.

Polititruth

Polititruth is a game submitted as part of IndieCade this year, created by Christopher Jarvis. It is available on both the Google Play store and Apple App store. Sub-titled ‘Tinder for Fake News’ by Dave Lee, it has a very simple swipe right and swipe left for truth/false interface. The Pulitzer Prize-winning organisation Politifact provides the correct answers in the game, also providing the answers which are unclear and uncertain when relevant. This game targets Fake News and ignorance and tries to make it engaging through the popular and simple swiping interface. Trump and current political situations have inspired the game.

A detailed about the game (from Medium) can be found here

Political awareness, via your correct and incorrect answer scores, is compared with that of other players for you. It makes a comment on public understanding of politics, in the form of a game.

On Geek.com, Polititruth has been named Game of the Year.

Illustration from xkcd titled ‘Wikipedian Protester

Below is from the BBC article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40295787

Eventually the hope is to integrate the idea into Facebook directly to help people distinguish fact from alternative fact. But the challenge that faces the app, and all of the games on show here, is in getting the title in front of the people who perhaps most need to see it.

“It might be a slow process,” says Indiecade’s Ms Barish.

Ms Barish, at IndieCade, also says that:

“I don’t think millions of people are going to play these games and change their minds. But I think it’s empowering a group of creators, and I do think there’s enormous potential there.”

Perhaps one day Polititruth will become a sensation and gaming will become a bigger platform for political opinions and social comments. Or a yet-uncreated game will fill that space and redirect the power of the gaming world as a conscious place shaped by and shaping society and its politics. Either way, it turns a very current and much-discussed topic into an informative and useful game, which has been a great way of acting against Fake News in the media instead of merely discussing it.




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