So, I used to make videogames. Depending on your definition of "videogame", I guess I still do? In any case, I loved videogames. But they were the scapegoat of many a moral panic, mainstream news outlets blaming them for school shootings, social isolation, addictions, and what have you. Which is big bonkers boo-shit, of course, so I defended my passion by saying...
“naw, games can't really affect people.”
But there was another accusation made against games, one that cut even deeper - that they could never be art. I'd really believed in the expressive power of games, finally, a medium where the audience was active! How could that not be revolutionary? So I rallied for the power of this new medium, saying...
“yes! games can really affect people!”
That was the sound of two of my strongly-held beliefs, colliding at high velocity.
But unlike the Large Hadron Collider, it didn't take a few femtoseconds for me to create something new from the collision. It took me years. But finally, I now have a synthesis: NO, media can't instantly alter anybody's minds, but YES, it still can dramatically change people over time. Like water carving rock. And that can be a good thing!
That's why I've been raving about Miguel Sabido and his application of Social-Cognitive Theory to create soap operas that save lives. He's the best modern example I know of someone concretely and directly using the power of art to maximum social change.
That's why I've been making Explorable Explanations, trying to change hearts and minds with persuasion-through-play.
And that's why I've been trying to get my fellow game-makers to accept the responsibility of our art, so we can fully use the power of our art.
So, that was my synthesis. But I got complacent.
Coz last week, my synthesis finally met its antithesis, and right now I'm scrambling to pull my mind back together. I actually mean, right now. I haven't planned this blog post series out in advance. I'm making it up as I go along, stumbling and fumbling through the collision of ideas, thinking out loud.
Someone asked me, why were Explorable Explanations better than other forms of persuasive essays? And I said, well, it's because now the author can turn their mental models into playable models, can turn their argument's logic into game logic, that is:
“They really let the author express themselves!”
Around the same time, I was asked, how are games better than other artistic mediums? Like I said earlier, unlike other static mediums, in games, the audience is active. They don't have to sit back and be passively persuaded by the author's shtick. Instead, with games, I believed...
“They really let the player express themselves!”
This is part of a multi-part series, because I'm making it up as I go along, debating with myself, and somehow learning things from it?