Uppsala-Stanford: International Perspectives on Serious Games

The focus of this video conference is the genre of “serious games”, namely games designed deliberately to persuade their players of a certain ideological stance, political position, or even about the exigency for taking action on an issue. The Games for Change site is a prime resource for many games of this nature.  During the video conference, students analyzed games focused on a variety of topics: global conflict; poverty; the environment; human rights.  After considering the extent to which they operated as effective persuasive rhetoric, students then took the next step to production, brainstorming their own game on their general topic.

Below, you’ll find the group’s descriptions of their games as well as their reflections on the process of analysis and production.

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10 Responses to Uppsala-Stanford: International Perspectives on Serious Games

  1. Akiharu, Albert, Adam - Group C - Section 1 - RhetGaming says:

    We thought that Oiligarchy was a more wholesome gaming experience than Energyville. While both had catchy gameplay and graphics, Oiligarchy presented the more serious social, political implications of the use of natural resources.

    Designing the game was the most memorable. It was fun and entertaining to take the better aspects of the two games and apply them to our own creation. We focused on sustainable living and making green choices in everyday simulation environment.

    From the US perspective, Oiligarchy seemed to present a harsh expose on American oil policy. From the Swedish (and outside world) perspective, the game only echoed their established views of America. This helped us to put the issue in a broader, global context.

  2. Madeleine, Simon, Erik Group E (Uppsala) says:

    We created a FPS, not in the classical sense but with a realistic look upon warfare. you would not be engaged in battles as much as performing different missions and if you are to get shot you die and don´t respawn. The purpose of the game would be to show the audience a more realistic picture on war and not romantizise it as much as in current shooter-games. the game would be called Lonely soldier.

    About the games we looked at the general oppinion was that the purpose of most of them was to educate and show how pointless warfare really is. Often in a very ironic way.

  3. Stanford-Sydney Room E says:

    We focused on War games. September 12th is a simulation that conveys how war is pointless. There is no way to kill all of the terrorists without involving the civilians, and violence breeds more violence. The second game, Raid Gaza, simulated the war between the Israelis and Palestinians. With the United States providing financial support to the Israelis, the war was completely one-sided. The final game, Peace Doves, was an educational game about nuclear disarming. It was quite ironic that though the doves were intended to bring peace, they were directional missiles. All of these games depicted the uselessness of war.

  4. Alex Darian Dartis says:

    The specific games we looked at portrayed real life serious issues. We looked at homelandgitmo which emphasized the brutality of our modern day immigration detention facilities. We played as a reporter learned many facts about the issue. We were also surrounded with links on how to act positively. Ayiti: the cost of life was the other game where we played as a Haitian family. Through procedural rhetoric we learned it was impossibly hard to succeed in life for these people. It was too hard to gain an education and live comfortably. A memorable experience with our Swedish colleagues was drawing our image which was slightly controversial but portrayed the seriousness of ideas in our game and issue. We learned that same rhetorical appeals can communicate messages across different cultures.

  5. slatera13 says:

    We noticed that both of the games seemed very informational in order to raise awareness about the issue (Darfur and Orange Revolution). The games were too informational and didn’t grab the attention of the player well. Also, the game on darfur lacked a sufficient tutorial so it was difficult to play. The target audience for both would have to be mature because of the seriousness of the issues, probably ages 12 and up. The people that would most likely play the game probably would have to be people already interested in the subject area. Communicating across cultures was quite interesting yet a bit difficult due to the slowness of the video streaming. The most memorable moment was talking about the Blue Mountain State and college parties.

  6. Sydney-Stanford Group B says:

    Poverty is a very serious issue and it is very difficult to encompass all the challenging aspects of being homeless in one game. The most memorable moment about the video conference was the recreation through intense pictorial depictions of the plight for those living in a state of home deficiency with Paul’s heart wrenching rendition of the struggles of the bed impaired. It was good! We learned a lot about the possible effects of serious games in addition to the differences between other gaming cultures.

  7. Sandra says:

    Health and Poverty

    The first game we discussed was too simple and easy to properly discuss, and it was not really about reality but was instead mostly about luck – which is not something homelessness is about. The second game was more realistic and forced the player to think about the choices, which in turn were interesting to discuss in the group. How far would you be able to go?
    We couldn’t discuss the third game sadly since we couldn’t get it going.

    About the video conference, it was much less awkward than what we’d first thougth, the other people were both funny as people and serious as students. The thing we will remember the most is our good friend Paul hiding under a pillow 😀

    Regarding the cultures, it seems that gaming is a more shown hobby in USA compared to in Sweden, There they proudly show their t-shirts. and in Sweden people hide it more. We think it was extremely interesting and fun to speak about rhetoric with people from other cultures since it allows us to both see and learn more.


  8. Alex and Mikael says:

    We found that the two games (Homeland Guantanamo and Cost of Life) were specifically directed towards an intended audience. They both included a lot of information and facts on the specific situation and in some cases obviously intending to create a reaction in the player.

    We had a very memorable video conference, producing a new game focusing on Apartheid. A central part of our production centered on producing concept art, graphically explaining the general mood of the game and its message.

    We found that gaming culture in both our countries resembled each other in many ways, but that our interpretations of mainly Homeland Guantanamo differed. A game like this, published in Sweden, would probably not have the effect that it has in the US.
    All in all, we had a nice experience and we want to thank our American friends.

    Mikael and Alex, Uppsala (Group A)

  9. Lina Viklund (Group C) says:

    Our group were given the theme “The environment” and we designed a game that was basically an expansion pack for The Sims, called “The Sims Green”. While playing the game you would get points for making “green choices”, such as buying organically grown food or remembering to turn the lights off when you leave a room. These points could then be used to buy in-game perks, such as outfits or home furnishing.

    During our video conference we discussed what kind of message it sends for a large energy corporation to sponsor a video game, and what kind of implicit argument that would make, as well as what kind of audience the developers had in mind for their games and how you could tell.

    One of the games we played were sponsored by a large, American, energy corporation. Naturally this was something that the Stanford students knew as soon as they saw the logo, while I did not. I googled the name of the company and found out what kind of business they were, and when I did that I came to thinking that they might have some kind of ulterior motive by sponsoring this game. If I had not googled it though I might never have become aware of what kind of argument they were (probably) trying to make, while the Stanford students still would have. That is one important note upon how understanding doxa becomes very important in some situations to understand what kind of point someone is trying to make.

  10. Joan Ytterborg group D says:

    Global Conflict was our subject. We only had time to discuss one game. That game was Darfur is dying. We observed that the game was about getting people to open their eyes for Darfur and its problems. The game was made in USA and the game was designed for the people who had the same doxa as they do in USA. But the people who play the game should be atleast 12 years old.It is a simulation game and it gives the user a more objective wiew, it might have been better to have a roleplaying game for the sake of bringing more pathos in to the game. The ethos of the game was not very well because it wasnt realistic and that could make the problem in Darfur feel unrealistic. The game had at lot of logos in it because it had alot of facts in it, but at the same time the facts would often bring pathos to the player.

    The moste memorable about the video conference was to see people from an other country and talk about their way of life.

    I learned that it is quite similar in the gaming and rhetoric cultures in Sweden and USA, we have the same games and can talk to eachother about rhetoric without missunderstandning one another.

    Thanks and have a nice life

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