Will we ever be ready for documentary games?

According to Ian Bogost, Simon Ferrari, and Bobby Schweizer, games such as Walden and JFK Reloaded seek to record an event, its space, and its stakeholders posterity. These goals categorize the games as documentary games. Now can videogames represent actuality (the truth of an event, not just the way something looks) in the way that cinema, photography, and nonfiction writing have done? My immediate answer is yes. Videogames are so entwined and dependent off cinema, photography, and nonfiction that of course they can. The authors agree by stating that videogames can engage actuality three ways: explorable spatial reality, operational reality, and procedural reality.

These ways seem nearly fool proof.  But in the end, does the proof that videogames can represent actuality really matter when the public cannot accept them? One of the last points made in the article is the controversy over documentary games, and I can see why.

Newsgames – Journalism at Play points out that procedural documentary does not weave a path through evidence like film or articles to provide a backdrop to the historical situation. Instead, it models the behavior and dynamics of the situation. Characters, setting, and even events are just a side effect of the overall logic. It’s because of this that I feel documentary games appear distant and cruel. For the most part, the public seems used to games that have more emphasis on the self, if not emotion. There’s an isolated and awful feel to playing events like they actually happened. This unfavorable reaction is only heightened with events with great casualties, which happen in games such as Super Columbine Massacre RPG and 9-11 Survivor.

It’s with games like these that documentary games are more likely to be labeled “survival horrors.” Tampte claims “a realistic portrayal of the battle must frighten the player, like a horror game might do,” and I have to agree. To portray a historical event truthfully, the maker should depict it in all of its frightening glory. But as far as the general public is concerned, I don’t think they will ever be completely ready or happy to play videogames that reenact charged events and memories. I can imagine it to be torture for some people to live through the past so accurately. This is where I think documentary videogames can take actuality a step further than the other mediums. But by no means should we expect the public to willingly go through the trauma that some of these documentary games could cause them.