Fiction Advocate asks: What's in a game?
Shadow Cities is a location-based multiplayer game for the iPhone. It has nothing to do with 9/11. But on Sunday at 9:30 a.m. I teleported within the game to Battery Park, and was delighted to find a tremendous gathering of Shadow Cities players there. I was ready to battle.
Little did I know that somebody had called for an in-game “Memorial Observance” for 9/11. We weren’t supposed to be fighting. Some people didn’t know and were casting spells; I even banished a guy. Only after checking the message board did I realize my mistake. Players were admonished for disrespectful behavior. On the Shadow Cities forum, Vraal compiled a Bounty List for the Disrespectful (I, GONNADAZZLE, do not appear.)
An iPhone game was used by a community of anonymous players to observe a real-life tragedy. What does this mean?
Enter How to Do Things With Video Games by Ian Bogost, a timely publication from University of Minnesota Press. In a series of essays, Bogost, a Professor in the School of Literature, Communication and Culture at Georgia Tech, shows that video games have valid applications across the cultural spectrum. Bogost employs some impressive theoretical footwork to explore video games as media—interactive, immersive experiences that can do more than merely entertain. The Shadow Cities ceasefire was certainly an example of how right Bogost is.