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Looking back at old news, and a rant about “projects” May 23, 2006

Posted by joshg in Christianity, Islam.
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Since it feels like this site hasn't dealt with a faith other than Christianity yet, I thought I'd link to an old post from Water Cooler Games on a group making Islam-themed games. The Islamgames site seems to have disappeared, and I didn't get to play the games, so I can't offer any new opinion on them other than to refer to Ian Bogost's take on things.

It's interesting that one commenter felt that the Islamic theme was superficially added after the game was made – it had no real relevance to the gameplay itself. It sounds similar to the phenomenon I've seen before in some Christian games.

(Big dump of personal opinion on how this comes about after the break.) (more…)

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Another conference missed May 23, 2006

Posted by joshg in General.
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Well, the Christian Game Developers Conference has come and gone, and unfortunately I was unable to attend. I had put it into the must-attend list, but then discovered just a few weeks ago that they scheduled it during May this year, instead of July as they did last year, and I already had another must-attend event planned for last weekend.

So! If anyone out there attended and wants to post some thoughts, I'd be very interested to hear how it went, and what people's highlights were.

(On the plus side, I did have an amazing weekend, so no complaints here.)

On an unrelated note, I'm using my 'joshg' wordpress blog to jot down thoughts about game design that come up while I'm (informally) studying it. If you're interested, click here.

Christian games in the E3 flurry May 11, 2006

Posted by joshg in Christianity.
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Kotaku got a sneak peek at Left Behind: Eternal Forces, and despite being ready for a good laugh, they walked away surprised that it actually looked pretty good. I am going to resolve not to make any more blind guesses at what the spiritual side of the gameplay will be like, as Kotaku's brief notes already reveal that there's probably more to it than I had been expecting.

Also, The Escapist caught sight of Digital Praise at eFocus, a smaller press event which I guess tries to pick up some leftover attention from the nearby E3 behemoth. Digital Praise is basically DDR, but with Christian music. Nothing mind-blowingly new about the design, but I can't bring myself to fault them for it. Music is an integral part of spirituality and religious culture, both in Christianity and in many other faiths, as it draws us out of our logical left-brain's stranglehold on our creativity and frees us to worship openly. So from a gaming perspective, it's just another knock-off, but from a Christian perspective I'm in favor of anything that motivates people to combine dance with their worship.

a moral MTV (no, really) May 2, 2006

Posted by joshg in activism, morality & ethics.
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mtvU has launched Darfur is Dying, an activism game designed to convey what is happening in Darfur and to help rally support for further aid and political action.

The game does a good job of getting the point across through gameplay. There are two parts to the game: foraging for water, and helping the village. The water foraging involves travelling to a well while avoiding Janjaweed militias, who drive towards you from the distance in armed pickup trucks. The limited view of the land, the always-present view of the militia coming from the distance, and the rhythm of constantly running and hiding all do an excellent job at conveying the perpetual fear and sense of helplessness that the people there live with every day.

The village management portion of the game adds a much-needed depth of context to the experience, recreating vital parts of village life such as farming, maintaining shelter, and staying healthy.  In the village, you focus on building, and more importantly rebuilding; at set intervals, a dialog pops up saying the village was raided by militias again. In their wake you must rebuild homes and replant farms. I like how this captures a sense of the large-scale harm that such violence has on an area; local and regional economic growth is nearly impossible, as you have to fight just to maintain and rebuild what is constantly being destroyed.  As well, the rebuilding efforts all use up water, which you must replenish by returning to the water foraging game.  I will nitpick a little about the interface, as it would've been nice to simply be able to walk diagonally to get to a field instead of alternating two other directions, but other than this it's very user-friendly.

While thisn't a religious game, it reminds me very directly of the work done by some of the Christian organizations that I admire most. There's no denying that religious groups have long been at the front lines of situations such as this to bring aid, from old Catholic hospitals to the present-day activities of groups such as MCC.  (Not to say that only Christian groups provide aid, but I'm more familiar with Christian examples.)  As well, there's an increasing movement within Christian missionary organizations to become more "holistic"; that is, those groups which were traditionally just focused on savin' souls are now realizing that bringing people aid as well as truth is simply the right thing to do.  After all, Jesus said that giving the least of these a cup of water was just as though you gave it to him, but I don't recall him saying anything about giving the least of these a tract.

Anyway, it's good to see games with a moral message like this entering more directly into the mainstream consciousness. Though, it would've been nice to see the game direct the audience to somewhere where they could provide financial aid for those groups on the ground in Darfur, instead of pointing to political activism alone.

Perhaps religious-based aid groups will soon get on board and use activism games like Darfur is Dying, or the earlier WFP game Food Force, to promote their activities and tell the world why it's so vitally important to support the cause of helping those in need.

(via) Link.