… but that’s ok.
Monica Potts argues in the American Prospect (for those of who who don't know, it's a left-of-center magazine) that liberals who play video games go along with the conservative modes of play within them. (For the purposes of this discussion, the word "liberal" will refer to everything from social democrats to greens to progressives, while those who desire limited government will be called libertarians).
Research by Jonathan Haidt is the best thing yet offered on the difference between liberal and conservative thinking. Haidt's work suggests there are five core dimensions of moral reasoning: Harm, Fairness, Loyalty, Authority, and Purity. Conservatives register concern about all five. Liberals care much less about the last three. Flashpoints of liberal/conservative conflict would therefore be things in the last three categories, such as: Having a Don't Mess With Texas Bumpersticker (Loyalty), Doing What the Police Officer Says Just Because He's a Police Officer (Authority), and Sing the National Anthem in a Traditional Way (Purity).
Ms. Potts touches on various experiences in games like the Sims and casually refers to some play modes as conservative and others as liberal. She also tends to view most of videogame play as essentially conservative, with a few liberal exceptions. She is concerned that she is not disgusted by, and actually enjoys, some of the conservative play modes.
Are there liberal and conservative moments in games? Does one or the other type predominate? Or are games an inkblot, much like mainstream media, which is criticized by all sides for being biased the other way?
Or, consider the premise that games are conservative. Why would that be? Are game developers generally a conservative bunch?
Finally, why couldn't you play any game in a way that suits your moral inklings? Are the incentives in games strong enough to lure people into acting contrary to their moral commitments?
Our friend Bonnie Ruberg has sent a paper composed during her expedition to the Comp Lit program at Berkeley. The topic: Sex in Second Life as a game. The report arrived by packet boat yesterday and may be collected at this wharf. Enjoy!
Multiplayer gaming is collaborative storytelling. That makes it hard to be an author. How to you induce the special experiences you want the Other to have? Sometimes you have to massage her behavior. Gee - if you knew how to use game tools to massage behavior in the service of nice aesthetic experiences, you could probably massage behavior toward other ends too (so long as nice aesthetic experiences went along in the baggage car). Yes!
For example, you could use D&D storytelling methods to sell stuff.
CALL FOR PAPERS
Games+Learning+Society Conference 7.0
June 15-17, 2011 Madison, WI
Another winter, another reason to dream about talking games and learning while sitting on the Terrace at UW Madison and enjoying the lake view. The GLS conference there every summer has always been one of the few conferences in this arena that "gets it," putting gaming experiences alongside real "fireside" discussions, stupendous keynotes, and great panels (and more!). Constance Steinkuehler, Kurt Squire, and their GLS students will somehow do it again. I've put the full call for papers after the jump.
A major newspaper just reported on the sad moment when Bill Holcomb finally had to leave his fantasy world behind. Bill, in his 70s, had spent better than 20 years in a virtual world and finally got too old to keep it up. He had to retire. He had to step back out into reality and make the transition from Hero to Everyman. He had to experience The Return from the Hero's Journey. It's what the enemies of games wish we would all do, once and for all. Give up on the dream, stop living in a pretend world where we are somehow special and significant and capable of great things. Return to the real world, trudge through the day like everyone else; limit encounters with the heroic to the TV. Watch it, we are told, but don't live it. Look, don't breathe.
Mr. Holcomb's virtual world was a baseball fantasy camp. He was pretending to be a shortstop, not a sorceror. Interestingly, the paper's treatment was poignant and sympathetic rather than dismissive and critical. They didn't say he wasted his time or his money. They didn't insist that he was crazy for paying real money for a virtual experience.
It's not a little contrast. Fantasy Football has 18 million players. Playing with virtual football players is not subject to social criticism, while playing with virtual warriors is.
You remember Jesse Schell's TED talk about games invading real life, and Lee Sheldon's Quest-driven syllabus. A new startup aims to help anyone import game mechanics into any kind of motivational situation.They call it "gamification" and can be found at Gamify.com. It's a strategy operating on the border between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Dangerous territory, filled with risks and treasures. Expert guides to it, though, will be in high demand.
(Disclosure: Nada. Don't know these folks from Adam.)