Are Games Places for Real World Ideas?

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Are Games Places for Real World Ideas?

Postby awexelblat » Fri May 23, 2014 11:20 am

In a May 2014 talk at MIT, Blizzard lead developer Rob Pardo posed the thesis that Blizzard games are focused on "gameplay," He specifically mentioned Blizzard in opposition to "narrative-focused" developers such as Bioware and Naughty Dog. His thesis seemed to be that games are not a place for "real world ideas" to be discussed. This seems to be significantly in opposition to entire genres of simulation games, not to mention LARPs and other role-playing games that use both realistic and fantastic settings to explore aspects of reality. Is this just one lawsuit-paranoid major developer trying to cover its rear end and avoid the ongoing questions about how women and minorities are treated in the industry? Is there a valid argument to be made that we should be able to ignore reality when we dive into our games? Is the entire premise that "fun" is opposed to "social commentary" false? If we insist that social commentary always has a place what do we say to people who want to link violence in games to real-world violence?

Coverage of Pardo's talk here: ... d-nintendo

ETA: Pardo is Chief Creative Officer for Blizzard. The recording of his talk has been posted by the Lab, here: ... 2014-05-07
Last edited by awexelblat on Tue Jun 03, 2014 11:07 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Are Games Places for Real World Ideas?

Postby millerdan2009 » Sun May 25, 2014 5:42 pm

Hi, all,

I very much like this idea for a panel, if only because this is a long-standing issue in gaming that has become particularly apt specifically because of Mr. Pardo's commentary. If one looks at video games, these issues stand out, and even with tabletop games, these issues aren't new: Alan already proposed a panel on inclusivity and inclusion in gaming, which has been an issue at least from the early days of Dungeons & Dragons, to name but one source of consternation somewhat at random, and the issues of corruption of youth exist there, too. (And this is not to mention something I learned at a gaming panel at the most recent Arisia, which is that apparently Nazi Germany published a board game whose goal was to round up Jews . . . so this issue really is timeless.) A worthwhile topic, that I can't recall having seen in significant detail at past Arisias, and so probably a good idea. (Yes, that's faint praise, but I stand by it.)


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Re: Are Games Places for Real World Ideas?

Postby Joshua A.C. Newman » Tue Aug 25, 2015 2:15 pm

I'd also like to point out that a Blizzard employee asked a PAX Prime panel last year how to effectively face race and gender issues in their games. So not only is his thesis absurd, but doesn't even carry through his own development team.

That said, it's a position that's comforting to a meaningful proportion of gamers who don't recognize the politics of existing media because it benefits them.
Joshua A.C. Newman
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Re: Are Games Places for Real World Ideas?

Postby landicine » Wed Aug 26, 2015 10:07 pm

That is certainly an interesting topic. I agree that the Pardo thesis is somewhat absurd since except for very rare puzzle games maybe, most things have some narrative elements. To use game play as an excuse to not consider the ramifications of plot elements seems dishonest or lazy. Still I think the issue of verisimilitude and how to include real world issues is a really interesting discussion. Does anyone have good reference points for how historically other forms of media have discussed this issue? It certainly seems that it is not a settled issue in comics or specific either.
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