Digital Games Theory

This week’s topic was serious games. I have to admit I was greatly intrigued by the games we played (Darfur is Dying, Sweatshop) and readings but I remain decidedly unconvinced by both.

First, the readings: “The Effects of a Serious Game on Role-Taking and Willingness to Help” by Wei Peng, Mira Lee, & Carrie Heeter and “Political Internet games: Engaging an audience” by Joyce Neys & Jeroen Jansz.

I found two underlying assumptions that seemed problematic: the issue of technological determinism and the over-reliance on intentionality. Neys and Jansz do allude to the problem of technological determinism briefly and in their last paragraph. In spite of this, I found both their article and the Peng, Lee & Heeter one to be significantly slanted towards a technologically determinist argument. The simple fact that the research question is geared towards investigating the effect that serious games have on political engagement and social change elucidates the fact that the focus is on the medium itself. Granted, both articles concede that the self-selection and control aspects of their respective projects could be influential in the positive results they saw in regards to the newfound social/political engagement of the players. However, I would argue that these limitations themselves are where the more compelling research question can be found. It is more indicative of the usefulness of serious games to prove that these incite politically apathetic gamers into social change than to prove that serious games can make already politically-minded people more interested in a particular cause.

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