Docu-games: creating thoughtful gameplay

In Joost Raessens’ “Reality Play” article, he describes a subcategory of videogames called documentary games, or docu-games.  Raessens describes docu-games as trying to break through the dominance of action that’s seen in most videogames and instead encouraging the player to reflect on the thoughts, feelings, and complexity of the game’s experience.

An example of a game that focuses more on the thoughts of the player then on the game’s action is The Cat and the Coup.  The game retells the story of Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh, through the eyes of his cat.  Moussadegh was the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran and was assassinated during a CIA engineered coup in 1953.  As the player, you take the role of the cat in helping Moussadegh progress through different rooms that retell the story of his life and his death.  The game doesn’t focus on actions but, instead, on solving puzzles and reflecting on the events that eventually led to the death of Moussadegh.  While it is hard to produce a game like this without having some personal beliefs leak through, a docu-game definitely allows the player to be more thoughtful about historical and political issues.  Ultimately, like any documentary, it is up to the player whether to trust the facts given and to agree or disagree with certain implied beliefs in docu-games.

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