Now Playing: Thought-Provoking Video Games
Parents tend to scoff at video games for turning brains to “mush.” But game design students at The University of Texas at Dallas are creating games of introspection and intellect that serve as jumping-off points for deeper, more nuanced thinking about life choices.
The Values Game Initiative is a project intended to create and develop serious games that further the mission and themes of the Center for Values in Medicine, Science and Technology at UT Dallas. These games are designed to teach and explore pressing issues through new models for digital education. The games tie into the Center’s Incite Your Curiosity lectures, a series focused on the possibilities and implications of human enhancement.
The first game to be produced, Marching Ever Onward, was rolled out on the Center for Values website Sept. 20. Marching deals with immortality and enhanced life, asking the question, is it better to live a short but moral life, or to live a lengthy but immoral life? The player’s life ticks away as the game goes on, and although life can be extended by costly trips to pop-up “clinics,” non-enhanced friends die away, and the value of other experiences, such as traveling or making money, must be weighed against each additional extension of life.
The game examines the costs, benefits and disadvantages of artificially lengthened lifespans. The player must ultimately choose whether to live life to its fullest or to its longest.
Dr. Dennis Kratz
Dr. Dennis Kratz, dean of the School of Arts & Humanities at UT Dallas, is spearheading this project with Dr. Monica Evans, assistant professor in the Arts and Technology (ATEC) program. Evans helped ATEC students select the top six game design proposals (culled from more than 100) to produce.
Upcoming games include:
- Endless Life, scheduled for release in late October, which deals with immortality and taking risks.
- HAPPEE, a game centered around emotional manipulation through drugs, with a release date in early 2011.
- Best in Show, a strategy game dealing with designer babies and informed consent, slated for release in late spring 2011.
The game design team, made up of 15 graduate and undergraduate ATEC students who serve roles from animator to artist to programmer, aims to produce the remaining three games by the end of the lecture series in April.
Evans assures that the games are “intended to be short, introspective experiences, about 10 minutes each, and all the games require minimal gaming literacy, so that the widest possible demographic can play.”
Translation: you don’t have to be a master of World of Warcraft to understand and appreciate them.