Friday, October 8, 2010

1378 - A game among others or a preview of what gaming can bring to the society ?

My attention has been caught by the controversy surrounding this upcoming title.

1378 is about the Berlin Wall (1378 refers to its length in kms). In that game you can either play as a candidate to exile, attempting to cross the wall at the peril of your life, or a border guard whose objective is the opposite: Preventing refugees from fleeing, even if it means shooting at them. The game shocked some people in Germany for two reasons:

- 200 people were killed while attemting to flee East Germany, German folks were shot by other Germans. Making a game on such a painful event is seen, by certain people, as immoral.
- Letting a gamer shoot at innocent and unharmed people is seen by others as flattering the basest of human instincts.

Are there good reasons for people to feel offended ?

On the first count, I say no. Nobody feels offended by movies or books talking about painful historical events. Why would a game desserve a different treatment ?

On the second count, possibly. However, in my opinion, it all depends on the way the game is designed. If you play a guard and end up feeling disgusted by what you have to do, then the game will have become a new way to develop our civic values, a tool to show people how easy it is for a political regim to ask his own citizens to do non-ethical things. A video game would have contributed to our societes by making us better-informed citizens.

I have not played the game yet but I am curious to see how it will play. It is scheduled to be released in December.