A game of trees (Gaming)

by Kermit @, Raleigh, NC, Tuesday, February 16, 2021, 08:56 (85 days ago) @ Cody Miller
edited by Kermit, Tuesday, February 16, 2021, 09:23

"In an interview with Polygon on Thursday, after the game was announced for a second time, he was insistent that developer Highwire Games will not grapple with the political machinations that led to the titular conflict. Instead, their first-person shooter will try to engender empathy for American troops in the field, for their work destroying the insurgents that dug in throughout Fallujah, and for the civilians trapped in between…It’s about the experiences of that individual that is now there because of political decisions…we’re not trying to make a political commentary about whether or not the war itself was a good or a bad idea…For Tamte, the goal of Six Days in Fallujah is to celebrate the heroism of those Coalition forces who fought there. The goal is to empathize with them, and also with the civilians trapped in the city. Anything else is a distraction."

A while ago I remember a story going around about a man whose granddaughter got sick with cancer. She was pretty young, and he gave up everything he had to make sure she got better. He quit his job to care for her, and spent all of his retirement savings on treatments. She beat it, and she was able to make a recovery.

The media ran stories about him. The stories focused on the selflessness of his decision, and his dedication and love. Look how far he was willing to go. The guy was a hero. The intention behind these stories was good, and I believe everyone who ran the stories truly wanted to spread and celebrate his heroism.

But step back. What was really happening here? Was this a story of heroism? Or one of tragedy? It never occurred to ask why this man even needed to make those choices in the first place. He spent his entire life savings on his granddaughter's treatment. But what if he lived in Japan? He wouldn't have had to. Australia? German? Norway? France? South Africa?

So stepping back, we see the forrest. We see well intentioned people ostensibly reporting a story of love and heroism, but are in actuality normalizing the cruel for profit healthcare system in this country. They are making you feel good about the prospect of this guy losing everything. And you will think: if that were my kid I'd do that too. This type of sacrifice, which should be wholly unnecessary, is held up as the pinnacle of good and altruism.

Was the guy a hero? I think so. But what does that mean in the larger scheme of things?

I think we should be able to makes games about whatever subjects we want. I actually hope this game isn't canceled again. However, it disappoints me to hear Peter Tamte say they have no interest in the larger picture here. In actuality, everything is political, including trying to say you're not being political. I am sure they will succeed at their goal. I am sure we will be able to play and experience the stories of the men and women they are choosing to highlight in the game. The stories may be inspirational and affecting.

But it will be a game of trees.

I completely disagree with your statement that everything is political. I'm sure I'm about to repeat something I've written before, but art doesn't exist to confirm someone's political priors--that's not art in my book. The best art helps people to see that their political priors are too simplistic regardless of what side they are on politically. Otherwise, it is just propaganda. I think people who say everything is political are saying that politics is the biggest frame they can imagine to encompass reality, but there are bigger frames. Good art helps us explore and perhaps better understand what is outside that frame, and articulates things outside the frame that perhaps can't be expressed any other way. I can hear someone saying, "No, my political frame is sophisticated and accounts for the complexities of reality." Does it? Your grandfather story is an interesting example. Maybe the grandfather doesn't feel the need to spend his savings in another country, but maybe the granddaughter dies because they are not in the U.S., which has the highest survival rate for cancer. Let's say someone makes a movie about a character like the grandfather, but in this story he spends his savings to bring his daughter to the U.S. for treatment. This complicates the political frame some might want to put around the story involving health care in the U.S., but it makes any resulting picture of the "forest" more honest.

I don't buy the game of trees criticism. Can't art that explores the humanity of individuals caught up in war help us to see war as less of an abstraction (which I see as a good thing)? Might that affect people's perception of the cost of war regardless of their politics and be more effective at doing that than something that obviously adheres to a party-line political narrative? Would the video game equivalent of Vice be helpful? For that matter, did Vice convince anyone not already predisposed to view Dick Cheney as a bastard?

Flannery O'Connor, the master short story writer, wrote:

"The type of mind that can understand good fiction is not necessarily the educated mind, but it is at all times the kind of mind that is willing to have its sense of mystery deepened by contact with reality, and its sense of reality deepened by contact with mystery."

What is most mysterious and most interesting? Us. That's why a game that focuses on individuals can be great, and can actually change how people see the world, which might change how they feel about political issues. If you begin with the goal of educating people so that they adopt your political views, you're a propagandist, not an artist.

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