A disturbing project

Today was project day - the second year students present the projects that they have worked on all semester long in groups. Many worked very, very late nights the past two weeks or so. Usually, the group that got a good night's sleep the night before the presentation ends up with the best grade because they were done and happy.

The first group so disturbed me that I really had trouble focusing on the others.

Many program games - that seems to be the current fashion, and there is an emerging science of programming games, so that's okay. I love to see their faces during the semester when they realize that modeling real-world things in games will involve lots of physics (evil grin).

This first game was to be about intercultural communication, and the group was a bit fluttery and disorganized, I took it to be the all-nighter they pulled yesterday. They chaotically introduced the game, and then introduced the first mini-game. As the backstory leading up to this, the character ends up in a pact with the devil. Okay, let's play with taboos, how juvenile.

The mini-game was a "smack-Saddam" game like there are millions out there. You get to the next level by smacking 20 Saddam heads as they come out of some holes. What fun.

There is some storyline to wade through - very long, very involved, very full of clichés. I can't really understand why they are in Australia - the opponent is speaking in an Australian accent. I grab the printed storyboard, okay, it is about Texas. I read, and find stupid scenes with people from different religions throwing epithets at each other. I ask one of the programmers why they chose this. There's no reflection, they just thought it was cool. I'm not sure what all this has to do with intercultural communication, but anyway, back to the game.

The character is now in prison somehow, and with some cute tricks it can break out of prison. Now in the yard I see that the prison is actually Guantanamo. I am very concerned about a ha-ha game about Guantanamo, especially one that is portraying cowering figures in orange jumpsuits. Of course, the bad guys capture the man character and drag him down a hallway - and drag him to a chair, strap him in and begin torturing him.

I explode. I absolutely refuse to continue to look at this stuff, and leave the room, slamming the door after me. I disappear into the bathroom to think.

What on earth has possessed them? Okay, I realize they all play games I consider tasteless and horrible, but this takes a step beyond that. The torture game, anyone? I later see that there are lots of these games available on the web - so really, everyone is doing it, apparently.

What on earth has the world come to when young people find the topic of torture something to play with? Just a big joke? Don't they realize what torture does to people?

If there had been at least a scrap of thought that had gone into their choice of material, we could at least have discussed it. But there was nothing to discuss - it was just cool, or so they thought.

I came out, took a seat outside the examining room, and waited for the committee to come out to go on to the next group, writing madly on a piece of paper I had to keep myself from storming back into the room. When we went on it took much effort to pull myself together and not take my anger out on the other groups.

In the evaluation we weighed the issue - the graphics were consistent, there was a lot of work put in, even if there were deficits all over the place. The choice of topic material was very poor and the presentation chaotic, the game had a lot of crazy corners. We decided on a B-, and the project leader had to break it to the group.

They broke out in tears. They were expecting an A for all their work, it is now my fault that they got a "bad" grade. I am speechless - this is not a bad grade, but it reflects some poor choices they made. I'm afraid that they have utterly and completely not understood why anyone would have a problem with their game.

Have we raised a generation of insensitive monsters, completely out of touch with the real world? Scary, and very, very disturbing.


Anonymous said...

>Have we raised a generation of insensitive monsters, completely out of touch with the real world? Scary, and very, very disturbing.

well, hold on a sec, teach, let's cut out the "WE" stuff -- after all, these were YOUR students, right ?!? ;-)

so, time to get introspective, maybe, and ask a few questions regarding the "tasking" -- how those poor students got to run (unsupervised?) into the wrong direction? Could/should something have been done different there, someone else deserve some criticism?

...but, of course, I'm on your side !!

---The Eternal Student

(-: ...after all, it could happen to me (some day)... :-)

Anonymous said...

http://www.robsiwek.com/JoergOdyssee/ if you want to see the game for yourself. I agress this has nothing to do with intercultural anything and even for a programmers project it seemed like there was more drawing than programming...

Anonymous said...

lol, only a woman could get so crazy about that kind of stuff

WiseWoman said...

Actually, a number of men that I have spoken too were also quite disturbed about the project, so I don't think that gender is a question here.

The topic of violence in any form as an element of gaming needs to be discussed much more. In addition, we need to more objectively research the correlations between playing and enjoying violent games, and acting out some form of violence in Real Life (tm).

Anonymous said...

hmm...violence as entertainment. a new aspect of our society?? i dont think so. i have some funny comic characters in mind, like tom & jerry, willy e. coyote....and so on. they are entertaining our kids for years.