Newsgaming.com is one of several new organizations which are producing games designed to offer critical commentary on contemporary political developments. Their first release, “September 12,” as its title suggests, uses a game-like interface to make a political statement about the futility of our current war on terrorism. It is not very sophisticated or elaborate; you can play it in under a minute and get its underlying point. There have been many of these simple games taking every imaginable position on the Gulf War. Hopefully, such works will lay to rest once and for all the argument that games do not constitute a meaningful form of expression.
Gonzalo Frasca, the lead designer and producer for “September 12,” has himself written an important essay, “Is It Barbaric to Design Games after Auschwitz?” which asks whether there is such a thing as a “serious game” and whether games can respond adequately to the complexity of real world events. It would seem that “September 12” is Frasca trying to disprove his own theories – an interesting experiment in political speech.
I am planning to write my November column about the various ways that the current Gulf War has impacted the games industry – looking at the use of war-themed games by the military, industry, and activist communities. I thought I’d give folks a quick preview here.