Sunday, February 28, 2010

Politics in Games, "Heartland" Thoughts?

David Jaffe recently spoke with the Kotaku Talk Radio Podcast and some details came up about a project for the PSP that his team had started work on before kind of being pushed aside to form a second party developer (Eat Sleep Play). This project was titled "Heartland" and would focus around the American reaction to an invasion by the Chinese military. Jaffe had this to say about the game in 2007.
"Heartland was the story of China invading America. It was a first-person-shooter where you played a soldier debating whether to stay and fight for America or go AWOL to meet up with your family. We were trying to put in a lot of gameplay that would evoke emotion. You had sequences where you'd go into homes and your commanding officer would tell you to shoot innocent Chinese-Americans. It was very dark and was meant to cause players to consider what it's like to live in America and be an American today."
My thoughts immediately jumped to the outrage over Modern Warfare 2's "No Russian" level and the horrific way the media balked endlessly for two weeks over the way that game handled such a "political" topic. Games are the fodder of 24 hour news networks looking to spark a ratings spike. Politics is just another reason why someone might watch anyone specific network, thus it's not very far from any other advertising revenue stream. What would make Heartland any different? What would keep Heartland's scenes of "emotion" from becoming the buzz word that gets the highest ratings?

While I'd like to think is that video games will one day be allowed the same ability to operate as a medium that writes its own rules. Do books have to deal with this kind of terrorizing and harrassment? When the media takes the piss out of gaming as a genre in the name of analyzing the political nature of any given gaming scene, what does that do to the community? It patronizes them.

I'd be interested in hearing more about Heartland, or even seeing more of it somewhere down the line, but let's hope that upon its final release, the game is met with actual discussion and not just endless drone of TV pundits.

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