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March 25, 2010

Molleindustria on "bad guy" point of view

Excerpt from Molleindustria's post-mortem on oiligarchy:

We want to stress this idea by proposing a sort of politically informed post-mortem in which we describe the odd challenges of producing social commentary into a playable form.
Video games are intrinsically opaque texts due to their double nature of source code and playable software. Certainly the source code is the strictest manifestation of the algorithm, but it is generally unavailable or unintelligible to the player. On the other hand, the executable software which is “activated” by the player's performance cannot be fully grasped due to the potentially infinite texts that can be generated by the same algorithm (see Lev Manovich principle of variability in The language of new media p.55) and the complexity of the software's hidden computations. There is no definitive way for the player to assess that a certain output is triggered by a certain input. Because of this opacity we feel committed to breaking apart and explaining in natural language the components of the game that constitute the socio-economic engine. We hope in this way to facilitate the textual analysis and the critique of the game, and, possibly push other producers of activist/political games to do the same.

Dealing with realism
Games referencing real-world elements and historical events are problematic cultural artifacts. Software does not constitute a document itself as a documentary footage or a journalistic report. Games often feature carefully reproduced elements such as characters, vehicles, and weapons, however the way these elements operate and relate to each other via the gameplay is always dictated by an algorithm that cannot be directly related to any actual entity (in the way, for example, a picture or a film have and direct, indexical relationship with objects in time and space). It is possible to create credible representations of phenomena that are already formalized into sets of rules (e.g. physical models), but when it comes to social systems or, more in general, human behavior our programming languages seem to be inappropriate tools.
Despite that, mathematical models constituting the core of a game can be based on documents or derived from well-informed theories. Obviously the goal has not been to produce some kind of scientific, objective representation, but to outline a web of cause-and-effect-relations that can arguably share strong qualitative similarities with the mess we call reality.

Full Disclosure:I have family involved in the exploration for and exploitation of petroleum resources in South America.

Posted by Rafael Fajardo at March 25, 2010 12:00 AM