Videogames of the Oppressed

VIDEOGAMES OF THE OPPRESSED – VIDEOGAMES AS A MEANS FOR CRITICAL THINKING AND DEBATE

A Thesis by Gonzalo Frasca

This thesis examines the potential of videogames as a medium for fostering critical thinking and discussion about social and personal problems. This analysis focuses on simulation as a representational form, which unlike others such as narrative, creates models that not only display the characteristics of the source system, but also reproduce its behavior by means of a set of rules. Therefore, videogames have the potential to represent reality not as a collection of images or texts, but as a dynamic system that can evolve and change.

After studying how the process of interpretation functions in simulations, I propose to adapt the basic elements of the work of drama theorist Augusto Boal into videogame design. Boal created a set of techniques for participative theater that raises the spectators’ awareness about their reality and encourages personal and social change.

I propose two examples of how these goals could be attained by using videogames. One is based on a popular videogame that simulates suburban life. By modifying its design, I suggest ways for players to deconstruct the simulation’s ideological assumptions and discuss alternative constructions that reflect their personal opinions. The second, uses videogame design in order to allow players to present their personal problems as unresolved simulations that will be shared and discussed among peers.

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