Serious Games: Ian Bogost

Games are very different from other forms of media that we're used to using in traditional media magazines and television. We're usually given a story, we're told someone's take on something. But with games, we turn that on its head and instead of starting with the individual experience, we look at the system and how it produces those experiences. Games are good for persuading people to see the world in a different way. So how can video games become the next persuasive medium for addressing complex social issues?

Persuasive games can be described as a video game that's used to present players with the situation or an idea that they hadn't considered. If you take freight piracy as an example which seems like a kind of a strange example but it's been in the news and the fact that Somali piracy has generally been characterized as this kind of anarchistic disruption of global commerce and we hear those stories in the news and those are interesting perspectives but there are perspectives at the end of the day. And if you ask well what are the pirates really experiencing or what are they trying to do, is it the same as what we think they are?

Wired magazine did a feature online as a game about the economics of piracy and they tried to recast the subject not as one about politics not as one about the personalities of conflict but about the business of piracy itself. The player learns quickly that they must immediately identify the potential value of a vessel and then they must work methodically to produce a modest ransom. Piracy becomes more like a business than like politics. Seeing the subject of piracy from the pirates perspective but then also from the perspective of the balance sheet rather than the perspective of the captor or global trade. Gives us a new perspective on the issue, it helps us see something about it that we wouldn't necessarily see from a news story by experiencing it ourselves. The vast majority of big challenges that we face in the world are systemic challenges, the global economy, climate change and energy for a few examples. Games are most useful as persuasive tools when they tackle these big problems that are interdependent and complicated. Games can bring about discourse, more sophisticated and complex conversations about issues. Persuading ourselves to be willing to see them as systems of behaviour rather than stories about individual people.