Games Put on Their Big Boy Pants

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In this day and age where video games are peeking up at you from every tablet, phone and TV screen, it’s pretty common for discerning moms and dads to wonder, “Are these things hurting my kids?” And if you go online seeking answers to that question you’ll find plenty of sites that’ll readily nod their digital noggins (if a website could have a noggin, that is) and tell you that yep, your kids are doomed.

We here at Plugged In don’t go that far. I personally play video games and only rarely fall over in foaming seizures (only kidding). But we have raised our fair share of red flags. If you look at the average roster of game releases you will find that for every bright, intellectually stimulating new title, there are quite a few dumb ones: shoot-’em-all-and-watch-’em-bleed-and-scream nightmare-makers that shouldn’t ever land in the mitts of teens or kids to begin with. But there are more and more intellectual stimulators being created. And the future looks hopeful.

I recently saw a mashable.com article that highlighted a game created by a 21-year-old designer named Alexander Tarvet, who’s part of Abertay University’s Game Design & Production Management program in Dundee, Scotland. His game, called Forget-Me-Knot, raises its players awareness of those who battle Alzheimer’s disease by putting them in the shoes of an individual with dementia.

You start off in a slightly fuzzy focused room that has scattered books, bric-a-brac and keepsakes on a nearby desk and mantle piece. The photos hanging on the walls are of smiling faces—some young, some old—that aren’t familiar, but feel like they should be. And with each clue explored you begin to piece together just who you are and the life you’ve lived.

“Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating condition for everyone affected and their loved ones, and through playing Forget-Me-Knot the player gets an immediate sense of the confusion the character feels,” Tarvet said in a press release. “Putting yourself into the shoes of the person with the disease gives a very immediate, visceral sense of how disorientating and terrifying it must be to live with long-term memory loss.”

Now, as thought-provoking as his game looks, there’s no guarantee that Tarvet’s creation will ever even make it to market. But the laudable fact here is that more and more people like him are reaching for those new ideas, those new gaming possibilities. They’re exploring the boundaries of what this medium is capable of accomplishing, using the interactive juice of high-tech gaming to attempt everything from brain-training to creativity stimulation to battling depression. And there is no end in sight. It looks to be a new and exciting age when video games … are growing up.

Who wrote this?

Bob Hoose is a senior associate editor for Plugged In, a producer/writer for Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey, a writer of plays and musicals and one-half of the former comedy/drama duo Custer & Hoose. He is a husband, father of three and a relatively new granddad.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

M Joshua Cauller More than 1 year ago
Just finding out about this article now thanks to a sleuth named Michael Morejon. 

It's neat that you caught Forget-Me-Knot. It's a neat game, but unfortunate that it's not complete yet. The topic of Alzheimers comes up more and more in games lately. My personal favorite entry is Ether One on PC and PS4. But the short web game, ALZ is extremely thoughtful as well. 

The number of maturing titles out there overall took me three years to catch up with, personally. The biggest examples would be Brothers: Tale of Two Sons, Talos Principle, This War of Mine, Papers Please, Gone Home, Papo & Yo, and Journey (which sent me down this little rabbit hole). Oh, and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my personal favorite of the last two months, Sunset: which tackles the subject of faith, art, racism, and revolution. 

Anyway, I always love meeting people who are into this sort of thing. You can find me @mjoshua on Twitter. 
seraph_unsung More than 1 year ago
Hopefully Tarvet is aware of research like this: http://www.engadget.com/2015/03/15/alzheimers-ultrasound-treatment-mice/ -- which in turn will hopefully lead to wonderful and positive breakthroughs for human patients in the years to come.

I have no problem with games exploring complex and mature themes responsibly, but one of my biggest concerns from a practical perspective is of how to make these games entertaining and enjoyable as games (for example, minimally interactive "explore and gather clues" or "watch a movie and make choices along the way" games might work in some cases but might also stretch the definition of "games" for some audiences as well).