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I remember many years ago when Live Aid was the focus of a great many people’s attention, the world was gripped with generating funds to help aid the famine in Ethiopia and other areas of the third world.  From the moment the news report first aired about the plight of the starving and dying, various sources came together to make money in whatever way was possible be it bring and buy sales, charity singles or the spectacle of Live Aid. It is of course easy for music to be made under a tight time limit, easy to put on a concert to run with current events to keep the driving force clear in people’s minds, but it is not so easy to have games made on such a quick time scale.  Way back in the mid 80s during the whole famine relief situation a compilation was released for the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 featuring ten games all for the budget price of £4.99.  To my mind this has been a very rare occurrence in the world of games, having something released relating to current events, obviously the content of the games were nothing to do with the terrible situation but proceeds were going towards the famine relief effort and the box art for the compilation was quite stunning in relation to the famine.  What would the gaming market be if it could reflect the current goings on of the world rather than a few years delay?

Games for charity= good.
Games for charity = good.

I understand that the reason why games can’t reflect the current climate is solely down to the time needed to produce a game, the only examples of games running concurrently with world events are in relation to sporting events or movie tie ins, which are obviously known about well in advance.  I also understand that to be even remotely able to have a game relating to current affairs would necessitate the use of a time machine or crystal ball combo, of course some flash type games have appeared soon after events due to the less restrictive time constraints but often don’t treat the subject matter with the decorum needed.  Some ongoing events around the world can lend themselves to games in some way, wars, be they civil or world are perfect fodder for games and have been used almost to saturation point but I really want to know if the games industry could deal with real subject matter in a way that is both entertaining but also compassionate.  Is there demand for games a few years down the line relating to current affairs or is the delay in waiting for the game too long to make it effective?

It could be Fallout 3, but it's real life, real people.
It could be Fallout 3, but it's real life, real people.

The terrorist attacks on the USA of 2001 were some of the most shocking scenes I have ever seen in my lifetime and hold a strange fascination with me, in my opinion it was the day that changed the world forever, but could any of what happened be used in a game?  I am not for one second suggesting any kind of terrorist simulator, far from it, I would imagine that the story could be played out in many ways, either as a civilian, fireman or police officer.  There needs to be no shooting, no stealth kills no gore just an attempt at telling the plight of people from an understanding point of view. The events of that day provided us with some of the most striking images we are ever likely to see, a few Hollywood films were spawned from it, countless documentaries and even new phrases to our vocabulary but games gave it a wide berth.  The world is filled with turmoil and events that change the lives of many, earthquakes, floods, revolts, fire, famine and indeed most of these events have been used in some way in games but to my knowledge, none have actually been in relation to real life events.  The games industry is maturing daily and it is perhaps time that it starts looking towards reflecting situations that affect so many people, like Softaid back in the 80s, portions of revenue could be diverted towards caring and helping for the people directly influenced by the events.

Earthquakes aren't always a special weapon, they actually happen.
Earthquakes aren't always a special weapon, they actually happen.

Of course the greater question asks whether people would actually want to play these games if they were ever made and I’m afraid to think that the answer would be massively in favour of, ” No.”  Games are a way for many of us to have a bit of escapism from everyday life and to play through real life events may take away the whole escapism that we crave, but maybe playing through real events would give us greater understanding of events and allow us to empathise with the people involved in a far greater way than we would ever think.  I have heard so many people talking on the Call of Duty games with huge knowledge about the guns in the games based on playing the game in relation to range, clip size etc.  Imagine what it would be like if people could actually learn to that extent about current affairs merely by playing a game.  I am not trying to say that companies should make a profit out of people’s suffering, that would be morally and socially wrong, games can tell stories just as well as big budget films and I think  it is long overdue that games started to reflect real life situations in the way that only games can.







3 responses to “Trending Topics”

  1. Simon avatar

    Very interesting points….

    Heavy Rain’s approach could maybe be used for some of these events?

  2. Mark Brown avatar
    Mark Brown

    Unfortunately, I think its just too tricky for a multi-million dollar game to risk getting such bad publicity.

    Not long ago, Konami was showing around Six Days in Fallujah, which was an FPS based around a real battle in Iraq, only to receive a monumental backlash and eventually dropped the publishing rights.

    It’d certainly be very interesting to play as a fireman in New York, an aid worker in Haiti or a Mardi Gras reveler in New Orleans, but I think the industry has a lot of maturation to do before they could pull it off with respect.

    Great work Martin.

  3. The Rook avatar
    The Rook

    Six Days in Fallujah was running through my mind too as I was reading this. It’s te closest game to telling a story about a real life experience but was not appreciated and never released. Even though the game was made with marines input and the developers talking with the insurgents, it was still seen as a game about a real war and real loss of life and therefore inappropriate for a game.

    Strange that we don’t hear as much backlash when a game is released about world war I or II. Perhaps the subject matter is too current to be accepted into a game, and time will allow the events to be told and played.

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