Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Flash Games: We Need Some Depth Please

I remember why I stopped playing flash games back in high schools. They suck up a lot of time. They are easy to find, easy to load, and are useful distractions at work. Honestly, I think I have lost a month of my life playing Rocket Man on Facebook when I should have been answering phones on the job. I can’t imagine turning to a flash game for information on an issue especially since flash games do not lend themselves to listing in-depth information on a topic. Or rather, the nature of the game generates more interest than the topic itself. In Faith Fighter, the shock value of playing as a deity wore off right after I selected my character. As soon as the fight began, all I wanted to do was to beat every deity into submission until I reached the final boss. I did not care about the cultural stereotypes built into each character. If anything, one takes these as symptoms of a crappy game where a developer did not put time into creating likable characters.

So, I am left with a perplexing question. If games were to be used for educational purposes, does the medium of the game shadow the message of the game? If a message is contained within a frame like a one on one fighter or a puzzle like game, then I wonder if the game just becomes the player’s focus. The relationship is interesting because a game like Howard Dean’s Dean for America needs to be fun to play if it is going to keep an audience. Yet, if it is too fun, I wonder if the message loses focus.

The four games I played were Operation: Pedopriest, The Arcade Wire: Airport Security, and Presidential Pong.

Faith Fighter...A deathmatch between Muhammad and Jesus? Sign me up! Many people are sure to be offended by the fact this game dares to show Muhammad but since it is a one on one fighter, why not have a little fun? Besides these two, you can play as God, Buddha, Budai, and Ganesha. Each battle takes place in their respective countries of origin as you try to pummel you foe into submission with a flurry of fists, kicks and special moves for each character. The destruction doesn’t stop at the deities. Each level is covered with a variety of believers who root on their deity even though their deity just jump kicked God on top of their house. Out of all the games I played, this was the best because I actually had fun playing it.

Operation: Pedopriest

Out of all the flash games I played, this one provided the least enjoyment. I should have expected to see some unsavory material with a title like Pedopriest but I didn’t expect the shock value to resonate so deeply. I felt uncomfortable as I told the Eunuchs to intimidate witnesses after they saw a priest molest a kid. The actual molestation wasn’t pornographic but it was graphic enough that I couldn’t play the game too long. Especially since the Eunuchs most intimidate the kids to stop crying after the priest’s molest them so the Church can avoid run-ins with the police. I grew so disgusted with myself that I allowed the cops to arrest as many priests it took until I lost. I have yet to make it past the first level of this game.

The Arcade Wire: Airport Security

The interface for this game did not offer insight into the world of the airport security guard. First off, the bar on the top of the screen tells the player which items a person may not bring on the plane. As a guard, the player is entitled to remove whatever item they want as long as it matches the item in the bar. Pick the wrong article and the crowd gets riled up. Do it too many times and you lose the game. The message: guards can do whatever they want as long as they don’t abuse their power too often. Is that really useful information?

Presidential Pong

As far as game ideas go, I can’t imagine Pong lending itself well to an informational experience. Once the ball starts moving quick, I stopped caring about any sort of candidate as I tried—in vain—to keep my cursor within the little box on my screen. It’s sad, my own reflexes kept me from learning about the candidates via their special powers during the match. I can see this game being useful a ways back when I didn’t know the candidates but too little too late.

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