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Everybody Dies September 21, 2006

Posted by joshg in indie games, morality & ethics.
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Introversion Software, makers of the game Darwinia (which I’ve blogged about before), are about to release their newest game, DEFCON. You can find out more at the game’s website, http://www.everybody-dies.com.*

Inspired by the 1983 cult classic film, Wargames, DEFCON superbly evokes the tension, paranoia and suspicion of the Cold War era, playing on the fascinating aspects of psychological gameplay that occur during strategic nuclear warfare.

I’ve already preordered this one via Steam (hey, $5 off the $15 price if you preorder). It hooked me in pretty much instantly; the premise is excellent, the visual style is fantastic, the gameplay sounds like a lot of fun, and the trailer has just the right combination of hype, dry sarcasm, and disturbing imagery reminiscent of Cold War era propaganda.

DEFCON also brings to light some serious ethical questions, and I think Introversion makes it clear that they’re being deliberate in dragging these questions out into the open. The Steam forums for DEFCON have already had people asking questions like, is it right to play a game where your goal is to decimate your enemy’s civilian populations while hopefully only most of your civilians die in the process? Is this game, despite being a military simulation, giving an anti-war message?  Who has these nukes in real life, anyway, and can we trust them with such a horrific power?

There are nine more days to go before I can let you know how the game itself answers the questions it raises.  It’s fantastic to see a game come around that’s able to confront people with this kind of Hard Problem, and look to be a blast to play despite (or because of) it.

* Yes, I linked it twice, because an URL that awesome deserves to be emphasized.

A good overview of “Islamogames” September 19, 2006

Posted by joshg in indie games, Islam.
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1Up has an excellent article, reprinted from their affiliate magazine Computer Gaming World, on the world of (what they term) “Islamogames“.

Though relatively small, Islamogaming is also a diverse field, ranging from amateur projects by students, unabashed anti-Zionist propaganda produced by an internationally recognized terrorist organization, religious games produced to teach Islam to kids, and a set of more sober games designed to explore the complex realities of Middle Eastern history.

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The Rabbi, in the Library, with the Menorah September 16, 2006

Posted by joshg in indie games, Judaism.
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Quoting from the Manifesto Games writeup:

Rabbi Stone Has a Crisis of Faith

Before we go any farther, please notice the headline. When was the last time you heard a game described in remotely similar terms?

The Shivah is an old-style graphical adventure game by Davelgil Games. It’s your everyday “Rabbi questions his faith and becomes a murder suspect” sort of adventure game plot (which is to say, unlike pretty much any game plot ever).

If you’re an old-school PC gamer like myself, you’ll quickly be able to look past the dated graphics – in fact, they might even be a nostalgic throwback to the days of Lucasarts and Sierra adventures. And if you’re interested in works that explore the nature of faith, you’ll probably be hooked immediately by the game’s beginning. What other game opens with a film noir intro speech, follows it up with the Problem of Evil and a confession of lost faith, adds a dash of sarcastic dialogue and then throws in a murder investigation that includes a large donation to the Rabbi in the victim’s will (just in case the hero wasn’t conflicted enough for you yet)?

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What Every (Christian?) Parent Needs To Know About Video Games September 8, 2006

Posted by joshg in Christianity, mainstream games.
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Via GameSetWatch comes news of what looks to be a very balanced and informative book about – as the title says – What Every Parent Needs To Know About Video Games.

The book is published by a Christian publisher, and its website includes an except from the book. Judging by the glowing review from GameSetWatch and from the introduction, it looks like exactly the information I’ve wished I could hand to parents who don’t know what to do with these video game things their kids are spending so much time on.

The author brings to light both sides of the current video game law controversies without slighting either side. He describes his own passion for gaming with brief glimpses of the game worlds he visits regularly. In short, it looks like exactly the book I would have felt driven to write, had someone else not finally done a good job of it!

This will end up on my To Buy list; if it ends up in my hands, I’ll give a fuller review then.