One of the most interesting debates I’ve heard through the years is over games as art. Most people who have played great games can agree that the immersive experience of those games and the environments they create can have at least as much emotional impact as a beautiful composition of music or a well-executed artwork. One game design that speaks to me specifically as being wonderfully evocative is Jonas Kyratzes: http://www.jonas-kyratzes.net/games/ 

The Book of Living Magic may be aimed at children and drawn in cartoonish fashion, but is surprisingly full of whimsy in the miniature stories that unfold, holding a surprising and excellent message at the end. Alphaland takes a meta-approach to existence and existentialism, using the framework of a game that unravels as the player continues forward. The Infinite Ocean is overly insulting and demotivating as the user questions the aftermath of AI in a futuristic space station. You Shall Know the Truth is the most overtly political and blunt games, representing the player as an agent investigating the apartment of a Wikileaks informant, learning of some of the leaks while destroying evidence (though the true joy and challenge comes in exiting the role).

Each of these games have educational value that exists outside of the typical “content”. The player is not learning of true history in the Book of Living Magic, but learns to appreciate history in the process. Alphaland may not hold the treatises of Sartre, but inspires one to dig deeper into the philosophies of life. The Infinite Ocean may not have the nuts and bolts of a computer but makes one interested in the possibilities of future intelligence. You Shall Know the Truth finds ways to give us startling political facts without dryly indicting or pushing memorization upon the player. In each of these games I felt both moved and educated in a unique way.

 

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