Burger Time and Its Discontents

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Good-for-you video games are really nothing new. Oregon Trail is an educational game, arguably. All of those clandestine (non-Nintendo approved) games like Bible Adventures were definitely crafted with education/brainwashing in mind. This Alyssa Abkowitz report updates us on video games that use today's absorbing game engines for (literal) eat-your-vegetables gaming.

In Fatworld, you construct a character (right down to the skin color, food allergies and genetic predisposition) to be a restaurant owner. You must decide whether your character buys a nice restaurant or a cheap fast-food joint to franchise. And your decision affects other characters in the game, which can only eat at your restaurants.

As the game progresses, you buy health care out of a vending machine (Bogost's subtle commentary on the state of modern-day medicine), and you can even create radical laws that ban fruit or saturated fats.

"I want people to make really bad decisions," Bogost says. "They can find the edge conditions and see how the world would change based on those decisions."

That game was funded by the Public Broadcasting Service and the Independent Television Service. Some of its ilk were bankrolled by Darfur activism groups and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

NEXT: Another Blow for Abstinence

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  1. Only a nanny-stater would think that a video game about eating would be as engrossing as playing video games and eating.

    There’s no idea too stupid for a PhD to disbelieve it.

  2. Yet another argument for yanking funding…….

  3. “I want people to make really bad decisions,” Bogost says. “They can find the edge conditions and see how the world would change based on those decisions.”

    So, if you kill off all the people with deep fried goose liver on a stick, do you win?

  4. “There’s no idea too stupid for a PhD to disbelieve it.”

    paging Dr. T… Dr T!

    [runs off]

  5. As soon as we have personal holodecks, this will all become irrelevant. You can go in there and eat whatever you want (and do whatever else you want) with zero consequences unless you program them in.

  6. All of those clandestine (non-Nintendo approved) games like Bible Adventures were definitely crafted with education/brainwashing in mind.

    Which makes me want to ask a similar question: is Reason and H&R educating us or brainwashing us? 🙂

  7. So, if you kill off all the people with deep fried goose liver on a stick, do you win?

    I’d go so far as to say that if you can’t kill everybody off with deep fried goose liver, then the terrorists have already won.

  8. Ah, it wouldn’t be a week at H&R without at least one shot at those evil people who want to encourage public health, especially among children.

  9. [steals lunchstealer’s goose liver on a stick]

    [gives it to lactose intolerant fat kid with geeky glasses]

    [fades away]

  10. Highly amusing, in unintentional ways —

    “Once, a judge at a gaming festival handed Bogost a review sheet on his game Disaffected, which parodies unmotivated workers at Kinkos. The review started with, ‘This game is not fun because’ and then listed at least half a dozen reasons why it sucked.

    ‘That’s exactly the closed-mindedness we run into all the time,’ Bogost says. ‘Gamers are really a pain in the ass. They have these preconceptions about what a game is and isn’t.'”

    Closed-minded troglodytes! Expecting a game to be fun! This is IMPORTANT! and GOOD FOR YOU!

    This sort of thing could indeed be highly educational, and at the same time a sinister form of indoctrination.

    “‘I want people to make really bad decisions,’ Bogost says. ‘They can find the edge conditions and see how the world would change based on those decisions.'”

    Well, based on those decisions, and the baseline and relational assumptions that the designer has built into the game. Those assumptions could, of course, remain largely invisible, verging on the subliminal.

  11. it wouldn’t be a week at H&R…

    And it’s only Monday!

  12. Video games don’t make you fat; YOU make THEM fat.

  13. Can you expose virtual Muslims to a virtual ham sandwich, and would it constitute a virtual hate crime?

  14. Finally, a video game I can support.

  15. The difference between Bible and Food Propaganda is some of the food nutrition concepts are true ( generally). One can’t really go wrong by “eating your vegetables.” The Food Police and Food Banning are something else entirely.

    Of course I oppose public funding, and it’s really the parents job, but I generally think its a good idea to encourage eating well ( and a lot libertarian public policy could help with this, for example, not banning Wal-Marts).

    A lot of us are just really contrarians who like to do the opposite of what is encouraged ( F-you Nannies, I’m going to down this 48 oz. rare steak with a loaded potato and a bottle of wine)to be different or prove a point.

    There is value in opposing someone like Morgan Spurlock, for example. and the government and lobbyists are often off the mark when it comes to things like the science behind nutrition. OF COURSE.

    But just because the government, the nutrition pyramid, the nannies, and all that shit don’t have the right idea of what “healty eating” is- that doesn’t that “healthy eating” doesn’t exist.

    The obesity “epidemic” is overblown, for sure. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem.

    Kids would be a lot better off raised on fruits and veggies rather than fries and Coke. Wen mine growup, I’m sure they will thank me for helping them keep their teeth, among other things.

  16. So I followed the link from the article about Bogost to a game where you play a refugee in Darfur. You have to hide from the Janjiweed militia in order to go find water.

    Then you have to repair your village after they come through and destroy it and take the food, etc.

    Oddly, there’s no option to pick up a rifle and shoot back.

  17. At least its better than Captain Novolin for the SNES (http://www.seanbaby.com/nes/egm04.htm)

  18. Darfur activism groups?! Not those tyrants!

  19. Oddly, there’s no option to pick up a rifle and shoot back.

    I think that would violate their “no-fun-with-video-games” rule.

  20. Gentlemen, tonight we dine in Fatworld!

  21. Burger Time!

    Awesome game.

  22. Another great quote:

    Or what would the nation be like if Barack Obama were president? Or John McCain? What would happen if Obama created a path for illegal immigrants to become citizens? Or what would happen if McCain lowered taxes and improved schools? And how would those decisions affect your life? “Are you going to provide more social services and charge us less for them?” Bogost says. “Because that just doesn’t add up. A game can show you that.

    Because, of course, there is no way to improve efficiency. The only way to do better is to spend more money. Sheesh.

    And I played Disaffected. It’s a godawful bad, dull, and pointless game. But I wouldn’t mind it if I was getting paid to play it. 😛

    In fact, most of the Persuasive Games are terrible. Turns out the creator isn’t a very fun guy, just another uptight activist.

  23. All of those clandestine (non-Nintendo approved) games like Bible Adventures were definitely crafted with education/brainwashing in mind.

    Weak.

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