Over at MTV they are commenting on Raph Koster‘s talk and other speculation at the Games for Change conference last month.  Apparently all was cheery and hopeful until Raph delivere his final keynote that some felt dashed the hopes of the attendees.  Raph’s blog offers an interesting rejoinder where he advises that it isn’t thta he is opposed to the ida of creating games that are geared to bringing about positive social change, nor does he believe a futile exercise; rather he is concerned that there is too much lip service given in the form of platitudes and very little real consideration of the problem at hand. 

I’ve spent enough time at themed conferences to know that pouring cold water on things is usually necessary — just as it was at the Metaverse Summit. Does it mean that I don’t believe in the possibilities? Of course not. In fact, it’s sort of odd to be painted as somehow the industry insider opposed to games for social change; after all, I’m the industry guy who was actually willing to show up at the conference in the first place.

Rather, what it means is that it’s all too easy to try tackling famine, war, and poverty from a posh apartment, all too easy to sum up the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a facile statement; all too easy to rely on “raising consciousness” as an answer to real social change; and all too easy to think that “oh, we’ll make a game and it’ll connect with the kids.” The cold water is needed, because it takes a greater focus than that to really do the work. I know many of the people who were there know that, because they have done the work and they know there aren’t facile answers. I know it, because as I said in the speech, a very large portion of my family does exactly that for a career.

Raph’s caveat is a good reminder for me and helps me focus on what it is that my research is trying to achieve.  I already know that Process Drama can assist to bring about shifts in awareness of social issues and our connection to them, I also know that some people find computer/video games incredibly engaging.  I seriously doubt that my small scale investigation will generate the paradigm shifting product of a “Ghand-fied” game.  What I do believe is that I might find some of the focus that Koster says is missing in many undertakings.  I hope that the educational foundations of my research will perhaps add some stable stepping stones to the path.

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