Farewell Koster, Who's Next?

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Let's picture a mass murder game wherein there is a gas chamber shaped like a well. You the player are dropping innocent victims down into the gas chamber, and they come in all shapes and sizes. There are old ones and young ones, fat ones and tall ones. As they fall to the bottom, they grab onto each other and try to form human pyramids to get to the top of the well. Should they manage to get out, the game is over and you lose. But if you pack them in tightly enough, the ones on the bottom succumb to the gas and die. 

I do not want to play this game. Do you? Yet it is Tetris.

Koster, ch. 10 pg 168

Whoa. I really wish I hadn't looked at the illustration on the next page before I read this paragraph, because I wonder how much stronger my reaction would've been. When I looked at the illustration, I thought it looked vaguely like Tetris, but shrugged my assumptions aside. I don't think I'll ever be able to think of Tetris the same way again. Maybe I'll just stick with Dr. Mario from now on.


Games thus far have not really worked to extend our understanding of ourselves. Instead, games have primarily been an arena where human behavior--often in its crudest, most primitive form--is put on display.

--Koster, ch. 11 pg. 174

This made me think back to the Shanahan article, dealing with racism. I don't know how I feel about this though, because I don't think that gameplay always reflects who we are as people. We might choose to play a game like Fable or Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic as the evil character, but that doesn't mean we're evil in real life. It does, however, show that we have a lust to explore, something that we're unable to do in real life. I for one would never be able to treat people disrespectfully, and my actions in my video games reflect that, because every time I try to play the evil track, I feel bad and convert back to the benevolent track.


Most importantly games and their designers need to acknowledge that there is no distinction between art and entertainment. Viewed in context with human endeavor and what we know of how our inner core actually works, games are not to be denigrated. They are not trivial, childish things. 

--Koster, ch. 12 pg. 190

I hate when people call video games childish and useless. They are anything but...they ARE art and entertainment all wrapped into one. In fact, if you ask me, video games are more entertaining than movies or books, because you have the option of interacting with them. Look at the Universal Studios' rides. As amazing as Spiderman was on the Silver Screen, he was even cooler in his little 3D ride, because the riders were able to interact with him. Isn't that what it's all about? Finding something that will keep you entertained for hours upon end?


Are games a tool for evil? Or for good? Are they frivolous at best or frivolous at worst?

--Koster, Epilogue pg. 202

Instead of determining whether games are a tool for good or evil, consider this. Many people say that guns kill people--and I used to agree with that, because it's obviously true, but the more important thing to consider is that people kill people. It doesn't matter if they have a gun or a knife or a lamp. If they intend to hurt someone or something, they'll find a way. So, in that respect, video games are the same way. I've said this many times--I don't think video games are to blame for our youth having issues with violence. I think those youths' parents are to blame for not raising their children properly. In one of Dr. Jerz's videos with Peter, they mentioned that Peter used to be an evil god on Black and White. That in now way makes him an evil person, so how can video games be seen as a tool for evil?

3 Comments

I never did tell Peter how he should play Black & White, but as you notice, I did brag about how "good" my avatar was.

Good job summarizing Koster's ultimate optimism. If I blame other people's parents for teaching them to steal, I still need to lock my doors to protect myself. It's not enough just to point the finger. What positive steps can we take, to address the fact that the world is full of people who weren't raised in the way we consider "the right way"?

Jeremy Barrick said:

Tetris is another case of a simple game. Yet this game takes skill and strategy. It seems that game designers had this in mind to make a simple looking game and make it tough, much like checkers and chess. It takes a minute to learn, but a lifetime to master.

Jessie Author Profile Page said:

Dr. Jerz--I always played as the good God as well. I just hate to see my villagers suffer.

As for answering your question, I think people need to be more open-minded to the fact that every person has a different background from the next. It's almost as if people use video games as a scapegoat, because they refuse to admit that some people just have bad wiring. It all depends on how influential a person is too, and for the most part, kids are pretty easily influenced.

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