Character Assassination

Though they foreground models over characters, systems-oriented video games can’t evade the issues of identity politics

The pedagogy of simulation games — city simulators in particular — is worth meditating on. They are, ostensibly, about engaging with complex (though still incredibly simplified) models, coupled with rule sets that mark discrete goals. These range from the practicable (make sure there are water lines in your new residential zone so the houses can have plumbing) to the whimsical (call down an alien invasion). By being told to use a set of tools in a particular way, an individual can be taught how to engage with a system — the system that is the game.

  1. I would have liked Bogost’s piece about 100x more if he had framed it as, “Here’s an alternative you might not have considered,” rather than, “valuing representation is bad and wrong and this is what you should do instead.”

    I do love Sim City, and some of Bogost’s writing has shaped how I approach ideology in games.

    Shortly before Bogost’s piece came out, I filled out a survey about video games. Some of the questions were about my favourite games and the main characters of those, and it did feel like an oversight that the survey assumed my favourite games all had identifiable main characters. So I can understand the frustration of having the potential for non-character-focused games be overlooked, but I’m annoyed that he treated it as in direct opposition to representation. Games can contain multitudes.

  2. The Hidden Politics of Video Games

    Finding that magic tax point is like catnip for hard-core Sim City players. One Web site has calculated that according to the economic model in Sim City, the optimum tax rate to win the game should be 12 percent for the poor, 11 percent for the middle class and 10 percent for the rich.

    In other words, playing Sim City well requires not only embracing supply-side economics, but taxing the poor more than the rich. One can almost see a mob of progressive gamers marching on City Hall to stick Mayor McSim’s head on a pike.

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