I thought that the different perspectives on all the different games was very interesting. If you look at PhoneStory, most of the actions you take as a player are as the villain. You are the one controlling the soldiers who enslave children, you are the one throwing phones as people, and you are the one catching people as they attempt to commit suicide. The perspective is incredibly important for the game’s procedural rhetoric. Because we are the consumers of these phones, the game is forcing us to take the positions of those who are helping us get those phones, and it creates an uneasy dissonance inside me as a consumer and as a player. Part of the procedure is making me do something horrible, similar to the torture version of Tetris. The perspective makes me the bad guy.
As for Darfur is Dying and games like it (Ayiti: the Cost of Life is another), the game forces me to take the perspective of an impoverished person or family and try to figure out a way to survive. Spent is another game that accomplishes something similar. It makes you thing about things in a way you normally wouldn’t just based on how the game is build and what it makes you do as a player. What the interesting about Unmanned and September 12th is that both of those games are from the standpoint of the American military, not from the Taliban or Osama bin Laden. It’s like how in most games the bad guys are Nazi or zombies. I can’t think of a single game where you try to help Hitler exterminate the Jews or help Stalin build a better Russia. People like to be the “good” guys, the protagonists of their games, but most of these really call into question not the natural protagonists of these games, but who we as players should feel about it. Killing someone with a drone feels weird when in most games you play with a variety of weapons in the field. Being powerless without any weapons to fight with other than searching for water feels weird. One of the strengths of games in that it gives their players a feeling of agency, but the way these games are build and the perspectives of these games gives the player a feeling of alienation and immobility. I think this created dissonance is in part used to try and spur the player into real life action, which I’m not sure it does. I’m already against wars overseas and I still haven’t donated a single dollar to Darfur. While these games all have a clear perspective and motive behind them, is it truly effective? Do people’s opinions change based on video games?