Ars Technica closely examines some recent games that raise controversial themes and issues.

On Super Columbine Massacre RPG!:

Essentially, SCMRPG! is a psychological examination of Harris and Klebold. It attempts to put the player into their mindset, exploring how and why they came to do what they did. The subject matter itself questions what a game is meant to be. Though people normally play video games for sheer enjoyment, there is none to be found in SCMRPG! Instead, I found myself actively dreading entering the game world, unwilling to perform the actions necessary to progress.

On Imagination is the Only Escape:

Imagination is the Only Escape tells the story of a young boy in Nazi-occupied France, who attempts to escape from the horrors around him through fantasy. Unsurprisingly, the game has much in common with SCMRPG! It features deliberately stylized visuals. But instead of pixelated 16 bit graphics, it uses detailed, hand drawn artwork.

But despite the art style, Bernard insists that he will not hold anything back in the game. "I am not going to modify or ban history," he said. "The rating will probably be quite high, but it's up to parents to decide if it's good for them or not." Since the game is targeted at a younger audience, this clearly will have a negative impact on sales. But this doesn't seem to faze the creator.

"To be honest, Imagination isn't the kind of game that I expect to sell millions and become rich with it," he told Ars. "It's something I need to create."

On Metal Gear Solid 4:

In the world of MGS4, war has become a business, and PMCs are in the center of it. The new war economy means that the world is in a constant state of battle, locked in perpetual proxy wars fought for business purposes. But while this is an interesting concept to contemplate, unfortunately it is not covered with real depth.

As a Kojima game, MGS4 spends much more time tackling strange philosophical debates than it does real world issues like PMCs. And given the fact that the existence of these corporations only came to light recently, it's a topic that is at the forefront of many people's minds. The game is wonderful, but the opportunity for a serious look at the subject was squandered.

On Army of Two:

The pair brings a frat-boy-like mentality to a situation that is, in reality, quite serious. Surrounded by dead bodies, it is not uncommon to hear Salem and Rios discuss what they plan to do with all of the money they are going to make. Along the same lines, players can customize the characters using money earned in what is referred to in the game as "pimping." This involves upgrading weapons by adding diamonds, platinum, and other assorted visual upgrades. And as Turner explains, "it was actually inspired by a real, gold plated AK-47 that we saw during our research, and we found it so ironic and amazing that we decided to include something similar in our game."

On Persona 3:

Since suicide—particularly teen suicide—has nearly reached the level of an epidemic in Japan, a popular video game would seem like the perfect place for an intelligent discourse about the subject. But the game barely even broaches the subject. Instead, there are a few isolated conversations involving suicide, none of which really explore the subject matter to any degree of completeness, or even acknowledge the ever-present imagery.

Even worse is the fact that the game associates the suicidal images with empowerment, as players can summon powerful creatures who aid them in battle. But what kind of effect can this have on players? "Showing detailed methods and providing graphic details of a suicide method can contribute to suicide contagion, or copycats," Wylie Tene of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention told us. "Contagion is a real phenomenon and is more likely to occur among vulnerable youth."

Source: Ars Technica

Chi Kong Lui

Chi Kong Lui

In the 1980s, Chi grew up in small town on the outskirts of New York City called Jackson Heights. Latino actor, John Leguizamo referred to the town as the "melting pot of the world," and while living there, Chi was exposed to many diverse cultures, as well as a bevy of arcade classics such as Pac-Man, Space Ace, Space Harrier and Double Dragon. Chi's love of videogames only seemed to grow as his parents finally caved and bought him an 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (after being the only kid in the block without one). In the 1990s, Chi finagled his way into the prestigious Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts.

Somewhere between all the gaming, Chi some how managed to finish high school and get into the New York Institute of Technology. At the same time, Chi also interned at Virtual Frontiers, an Internet software consultancy where he learned the ways of HTML. Soon after acquiring his BFA, Chi went on to become the lead Web designer of the Anti-Defamation League. During his tenure there, Chi was instrumental in redesigning and relaunching the non-profit organization's Web site.

Today, Chi is the webmaster of the American Red Cross in Greater New York and somehow managed to work through the tragic events of September 11th without losing his sanity. Chi considers his life's work and continues to be amazed that the web site is still standing after the recent dotcom fallout. It is his dream that will accomplish two things: 1) Redefine the grammar of videogames much the same way French film critic Andre Bazin did for the art of cinema and 2) bring game criticism to the forefront of mainstream culture much the same way Siskel & Ebert did for film criticism.
Chi Kong Lui

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