Did you notice that little thing going on in Egypt over the past few weeks? Apparently, there is some kind of world changing event happening. Hundreds of thousands of protesters have filled the streets of Cairo, with joint protests happening all over the country. Despite crackdowns on domestic and foreign media outlets, the world is attentive to the actions of a broad and largely united swath of Egyptian citizens. Right before our eyes, a thirty year old US backed dictatorship is being dismantled by a startling display of people power. This is fascinating history in the making. I think we should be asking ourselves how games can be involved.
No, I do not mean we should all create Egypt protest themed Minecraft levels in solidarity - although that might be a great idea. What I would like to see are games, quickly created, that address significant topics issues. I want some fast response game design.
No one can design a triple-A game overnight, which means this task must burden the shoulders of indie developers out of necessity. We need quick think pieces, meant to foster conversations and criticisms amongst the gaming community, not treatises on the future of platforming design. Indie developers certainly have the capacity to create astounding works in shockingly small lengths of time.
Global Game Jam. The design teams, many of which met at the events for the first time, created startling displays of creativity and ingenuity in a mere forty-eight hours. Considering that protests against the Mubarak regime in Egypt are ongoing, surely there is time left to create a puzzle-platformer about his rise to power?
Need inspiration? Check out Peter Brinson’s and Kurosh ValaNejad’s The Cat and the Coup, a documentary game nominated for this year’s Independent Games Festival later this month. The Cat and the Coup explores the 1953 CIA orchestrated coup against the democractically elected Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammed Mossadegh. It might not be particularly timely, but it certainly is political.
Games are quite powerful. Yet we shouldn’t be scared of them. Games do not have to accurately represent an entire complex problem. In fact, fast-response game design should focus on specific perceptions and sentiments of designers. We should be willing to discuss sensitive topics and make mistakes, it creates thrilling learning opportunities. As Andrew Vanden Bossche stated in an excellent post regarding an unrelated topic, “The thing about criticism is that it expands and enlivens and enriches... Criticism is like experience points for artists.”
Collectively, we are missing out on an excellent opportunity to explore pertinent political themes that will absolutely affect our lives. The world is changing all around us, every day. We can tweet about, why can’t we game about it?