This semester students have signed up for the chance to explore globalism from a unique perspective in their Junior Seminar: Global Thinking and Digital Literature . Currently, students are discovering what it was like to be a gamer in the ’80s and ’90s. Prevalent pixels are difficult to get used to, but the students handle the challenge well by playing games such as Metroid (1986), the first feminist game that told male gamers, “Hey, girls can shoot ‘em up too!” Some students are discovering what it is like to pick up clues and read walls of text for fun in games Déjà Vu (1985) and Shadowgate (1987). These games are point-and-click adventures that have players point at an object to explore it in some way. Surprise: most video games then and now have a lot of reading in them; in fact video games often exceed the average novel by twice the number of read words to a game!
So how do video games connect to the issues of globalism? If you are asking that question, you are probably not a gamer because students of the class were able to name many examples after reading an article from The Globalist called “Globalism versus Globalization” by Joseph Nye. Within four types of globalism—social and cultural, economic, environmental, and military – students were quick to identify games that presented meaningful issues well beyond the stereotypical idea of a video game.
Moriah Browne, class of 2013, initiated an interesting conversation as to the global impact of Tetris (1985), the well-known game that was created by Alexey Pajitnov of the former Soviet Union, exported to the U.S. and Japan and eventually around the world. Tetris has become so globalized that it carries with it myths of communist promotion and research of promoted brain activity! With so many iterations and so many players, Tetris has been placed on the same level as chess in terms of pervasiveness. However, games with story lines have truly addressed globalism in all facets. While literary story lines were once less common, as technology progressed into cinematic ability, the conventions of narrative became more and more attractive to the industry. Romance, intrigue, war, and adventure have all been explored over the near forty years of video game history. Consider the shocking production of an opera in the 1994 Final Fantasy VI or the disturbing look into nuclear apocalypse in the Fallout series. One might describe Uncharted (2007) as an interactive movie, and the subtle story of love underlying perilous journey rivals Indiana Jones.
This Junior Seminar course is just getting off of its feet, and the best discussions are to come! If you are an avid gamer or are interested in how video games are changing our global society, pick up a copy of the class textbook Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal. Continue to follow the seminar class as we advance into more contemporary games and dig deeper into global issues.