Thursday, August 01, 2013

Security Of Games

The Castle Doctrine has been making it’s rounds on the internet this week. It’s a video game based on the concept of an actual law called The Castle Doctrine. The title and specifications vary from state to state, but I know in Texas the game mimics the law: You have the right to protect yourself and your property should someone break in to your home. It’s also known as the King of the Castle.

Jason Rohrer explains, from his perspective, how and why he developed this game and the “treatment of otherness” as he calls it. The concept of the game is simple: You have a home and you must protect it, your wife, and your children from any perpetrators. The game is also multi-player and allows you to be both the victim and the offender. It’s…creepy. Eerie even to have someone play both roles and be able to interact in that atmosphere. Even more twisted is that you get MORE money from a home if you kill the wife and kids. 

Rohrer was inspired by Minecraft and his real world experiences, the feeling of a multiplayer game where you can leave your Minecraft island, but what happens when you’re gone? Other players can come in and change your space, add more blocks, or even move it entirely. Rohrer was fascinated by this concept of fear. “The result is a game about violation.”  Both the offender and the victim are in the roles of violators.

It brings a number of questions and concerns to the table. To note: this is a pixilated game that isn’t a stretch from RPGMaker so physical realism is out the window. However the mental and emotional toll are very real. A number of reviewers are choosing to not play, and truthfully I don’t blame them. This is a game that plays on our fears about possession, privacy, and security. It also further pushes the trope of “damsel in distress” and the need to protect a woman (as of the current game beta you can’t be a female protector or aggressor in the game). The academic in me is curious to see how people will actually play the game. Will people follow the intended design? Or will communities of no violence form as a means of “breaking the game”?

While many might be uncomfortable with the idea of this game, it is also necessary to help bring the medium forward as art. Look at Super Columbine Massacre RPG or the Dafaur simulations. These games not only force us to question our current world, but provide a means of expanding our creative minds. There are no limits to games and what they can show/teach/instill us.


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