Games with overt messages.


I was thinking about this ever since I mentioned trains yesterday. But there is a breed of games that are explicitly trying to communicate messages on a variety subjects.

#This Guilty Land by Tom Russell is nominally about the frictions in place before the Civil War in the USA. But, it also communicates, or tries to communicate, that the Civil War was inevitable, and that compromise in moral questions is not something we should consider.

#Meltwater: A Game of Tactical Starvation by Erin Escobedo is an interesting game with a number of arguments. She gives malthusianism a severe dressing down. And, she makes some arguements about the rank stupidity of war. This is a game that does not try to be fun. But it tries to give a message, a warning, and serve as a peace of satirical art.

#An Infamous Traffic by Cole Wehrle is a game that puts you in the Opium trade that Great Britain engaged in with China. It makes, from what I understand, arguments about the lengths that the British were willing to go to achieve respectabilty at home. Of course, that raises questions about what lengths we are willing to go to abroad, to achieve respectabilty at home. We, in the west, still seem to be willing to profit from other peoples misfortunes. The very technology that I am using to write this was produced in factories with less than ideal conditions in Southeast Asia.

There are a number of games, and a number of designers who do this sort of thing. Do you have this sort of game in your collection? Do you want your games to have a overt message? Do you like playing this sort of game? Do you admire them? Or do you wish that these sorts of games wouldn't be designed?

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2 months ago

I don't necessarily feel a need for games to have a message but often appreciate when they do. I like how #Archipelago mechanically and thematically allows for greed and selfishness to cause the game to end as well as highlighting how you as a colonial power are actually the bad guys. 

I also enjoy the satire (turned up to 11) of #War on Terror of you as the 'good guys' are inevitably drawn to fund and use terrorists against each other which will also then inevitably be used against you later in the game.

Supporter2 months ago

War on terror is a good example. In fact, I almost think that it was banned in Essen the year that it came out. 

2 months ago

Yeah, I think it stirred up a whole bunch of controversy

Supporter2 months ago

The only game I have that fall into this category is #Pax Pamir (Second Edition). The theme, as you're aware, is based on "The Great Game" period, coined so by Western histories because of the role played by the Europeans who attempted to use central Asia as a theater for their own rivalries. For Pamir, I don't think there's an overt message of "take this side!", but it does succeed in portraying the level of manipulation and power struggle that happens behind the more upfront elements of war, and how people with zero power are at the mercy of these people working in the shadows. And that's what I think I'd prefer in my games--a somewhat balanced or nuanced telling that offers an opportunity to learn and form my own opinions, rather than being forced on a set path.

With that said, I've had a growing interest in historical games such as #Freedom: The Underground Railroad, but I'm still of the opinion that I'd rather play games that aren't so close to reality.

2 months ago

I also really want to try #Freedom: The Underground Railroad some time

Supporter2 months ago

One hallmark of many of the Pax games is that the players play an individual. Not one of the "powers that be" but someone who is sort of a middle man.

#Pax Pamir (Second Edition) you play as an Afghan warlord.

#Pax Renaissance you play as a banker.

#Pax Porfiriana sets you in Mexico as a hacendado.

#Pax Transhumanity sets you as a specific type of character. These include: bloggers, colonels, doctors, and, I think citizens.

In #Pax Viking you play as a viking explorer or adventurer pushing to the east. And thus changing the history of Europe.

I think the only exception is #Pax Emancipation. In that game you play as a group of people, either you play the: Evangelicals, Parliment, Philanthropists.

And, with each of these games, again excepting #Pax Emancipation, I think there is something that is shown. The Hacendado in #Pax Porfiriana is not necessarily trying to overthrow Porfirian regime, he is trying to grow his personal holdings and profitablity even if it means overhrowing the government. In #Pax Pamir (Second Edition) The point is not which power wins the game. The point is I want me and my tribe to be in the good with whoever wins. And so it goes in game after game. I think that the one of the messages that the Pax games try to teach is the role of "middle class" especially the weatlhy middle class, in shaping history. History is not all great nations and politicions navigating this world through dangers. History is small knife fights for selfish ends.

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