Politics of Video Games

Trust Omar to find the good stuff. Bloglines is the shiznit!

Not only can I monitor the blogs I read regularly from one place – a la LiveJournal’s Friends list, without the creepy “Friend me” angle – but it lets me monitor other blog-like sites I check regularly, including Wizards’ D&D pages, Craigslist-ings, Snopes.com and my new fave, XBox sites!

Speaking of, this just in:

Def Jam Redefined

Vendetta II gets a new name.

April 30, 2004 – Electronics Arts has announced that their hip-hop battle title Def Jam Vendetta II has been renamed Def Jam: Fight For NY. Featuring more than 40 personalities and artists from the hip-hop world, Def Jam: Fight For NY will include Busta Rhymes, Carmen Electra, Lil’ Kim, Ludacris, Method Man, Redman, Sean Paul, Slick Rick, Snoop Dogg, and many more who are willing to beat the stuffing out of each other.

Great! Wonder if it will include an unlockable NYPD Rap Intelligence Unit to monitor the fighting? Maybe Benjamin Brafman or Murray Richman to defend them in court? Perhaps cut scenes of Tupac being shot up in a lobby, or Jam Master Jay in a recording studio?

I can’t believe this is the same company that publishes my beloved Madden football! Looks like I’ll be switching over to ESPN NFL 2005.

In related news, I came across this interesting article on video games and politics via Slashdot.org, another Bloglines trackee.

Free Play

The politics of the video game

by Kevin Parker, Reason Online, April 2004

Political ideas are infiltrating not just the back-stories of games but their “play mechanics” — the inner workings that shape game behavior. It may be the scripted parts of the games that explicitly state political notions, but what’s ultimately more significant is the way games can communicate doctrine by demonstration, the same way sports communicate physics. As Salon’s Wagner James Au once put it, “Socially minded films and television programs can only dramatize their politics, but we now have a medium where you can interact with them, as an engaged participant.” If cinematic spectacle grabs eyeballs, then gameplay grabs minds.

The results may not be what the gamemakers intended. Designers are responding to the demand for compelling interaction by providing more logically consistent game worlds and relaxing linear story structure to allow for more player control. As a result, players are freer to explore and experiment without encountering as many contrived game rules. Indeed, discovering the rules becomes a much-discussed game within the game. Built-in political assumptions will be subject to the same distributed criticism.

It’s a longish read but fascinating from a sociological perspective. And particularly relevant in the context of the Def Jam nonsense.

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