Thursday, April 28, 2005

Cool. Feedback!

When writing
on this blog I tend to forget that, every so often, people actually read this site.

Especially when I mention them.

So it was pretty cool that I got a comment from the author, Carl Bialik, of the Gelf Magazine piece I talked of in my previous post, the piece I thought was off-base in its criticism of the Food Force game.

Here's the comment which, thankfully, was well-reasoned and totally cool (which does not happen as often as I'd like on the Internet):

"I wrote the Gelf Magazine review. I see how it can seem like I was holding the developers to a higher standard. But I think I was holding them to a different standard -- I would have rather seen more-rudimentary graphics, but tasks that required more contact with other people and more thinking, less mouse-ing. That seems like a better way to bring young children into the world of food aid."

Which, like, I totally understand. In fact, if that had been the conclusion to the review, I might've said, "Oh, yeah . . . that makes sense."

Here's what I would've considered had I been asked to make an educational game about food aid:

1. Our budget is 150,000 dollars. In gaming terms, this is spittle. There are designers that fetch most of that in a year. Okay, so a single-A title here, if we're lucky.

2. We've been told to reach as many people as possible, which means some quick action prefixed with simplified explanations of the food aid program. This seems the easiest way to draw in all types of young gamers.

3. We, unfortunately, have to be sensitive to the world - wouldn't want Sudan to be insulted because we mentioned how they can't stop killing each other long enough to feed their own people (of course, that's pretty much every country). So let's try to be nice.

4. It would be very nice to be able to show the human side of hunger - The assholes that restrict distribution, the growers that artificially inflate prices, the children with swollen stomachs, the politicians that give more of a shit about who other people are fucking than solving problems. Unfortunately, most parents don't mind education so long as its bland and inoffensive, so we have to keep polemicizing to a minimum.

Now then, how would I make a game about food aid if I were unhampered by budgetary or audience or political correctness constraints?

I see a game almost like Mercenaries. A wide-open gameworld set in a drought-stricken East African nation. You start off at a small distribution center, making drop-offs in small villages, consulting with doctors, bribing local warlords. When you arrive in a new town children flock to your vehicle with their arms raised. You have to decide how much food to give this time and how much to save for the next village.

Back at the center you must manage your budget. Food packs to take care of the immediate cases, or new drought-resistant seeds to try and provide for the future? Water purifiers? More personnel?

You link up with a Red Cross coordinator who is traveling to more remote locations. Upon trying to return you find your bridge has been washed away by a flood - along with the most recent crop efforts.

A village elder, consumed by pride, forbids you from entering the village ever again. A woman approaches you before you leave and asks you to meet her midnight at a tree outside of town. You have to avoid patrols to reach the meeting place and then move crates into the town.

The Nike Corporation has offered to set up a factory in the local area, bringing much-needed jobs and greasing political wheels, alleviating much of the famine but making the locals reliant on the factory, not to mention crippling your budget.

Hm. That would be a cool game.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like your second version. What your describing doesn't seem very un politically correct, just a little insensitive. In someways, I would say it's too light-hearted. I suppose, to do proper justice to the real situations around the world, the game would have to be aimed at an older audience anyway.