Serious World, Serious Games

Carl Goodman, Museum of the Moving Image, spoke at the GDC about platforms like Xbox Live Arcade helping distribute politically- and socially-conscious games

Goodman made the argument that games can have an impact on society beyond the people that actually play the game themselves.

"A movie like Brokeback Mountain has a much greater effect than merely on the people that watch the film. Games can create this level of awareness as well."

He argued that "new forms of funding need to be found to allow for artist-driven works so developers can choose a subject that is important to them, and go on to create a public conversation that goes beyond the game itself."

He gestured towards Lionhead's movie-studio simulator The Movies, and talked about how more people had seen the short of The French Democracy than had actually played the game.

Goodman said, "Games have various potential levels of involvement from all-consuming to casual."

He added that games with a serious political or social dimension could start to have an impact on commercial platforms. "The companies making these [game consoles] want them to appeal to a broader audience. Via downloads, this has become possible."

Goodman implied that the Xbox Live Arcade platform and other similar services such as the upcoming "PlayStation Network Platform" could facilitate the development of "serious games" that focus on social and political issues.

While online marketplaces could serve small, political visionary developers quite well, there could be some issues with political commentary within more repressive governments, as well as censorship issues that would leave companies like Microsoft and Sony deciding what content is "okay" and what content isn't.

Goodman recognized young developers who are ready to push exactly what a game can be, saying "A generation of game makers are emerging who expect to make games with real-world themes."

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