My 7-year-young son is up with the birds, and his Dad, this morning. He’s at the PC next to me, googling Pokemon and endlessly asking when I’ll be done so I can tell him a Pokemon story. (Which is actually a call-and-response kind of narrative in which I lay down a basic storyline and he fills in the Pokemon characters and what they do, as I’m clueless about the intricacies of Chowazar training issues.)
Which brings me to games and activism.
Any aging digerati out there remember the first Whole Earth Software Catalogue (1984)? I think I’ve still got mine kicking around in the basement somewhere. It was the dead-tree Tucows of its day, listing cool stuff you could buy on 5 and a quarter inch floppy disks to run on your (in my case) 286 Compaq Sewing Machine portable with 10 megabyte hard disk monster rig.
Chapter One was games.
Stewart Brand made a compelling case for why, at a time when the PC was infesting accounting departments all over the planet and becoming something that every office had to have, he chose to lead with fun, saying that games are the way we first learn as children, and playtime learning remains one of the best ways to master a complicated new task like DOS-based Personal Computing. And indeed, the early adopters I knew in the days of the Kaypro II, where I cut my teeth, all had a child-like streak of curiousity and gee-whizzikers-ness.
I’m reminded of that every time I look at the stats over at the Greenpeace website and see that among the many fine 50-page studies and painstakingly researched information, it’s still the Games section which rules the mousepaths. Which has been driving some thought about how we can bundle campaign messaging into fun-filled delivery packages. Top on my list: How to inform kids today that all that stuff about how the nuclear weapons threat is not simply a matter of rogue states or a bygone of the Reagan era, and that thing called Chernobyl and what it was all about.
So I’m happy to provide you with a sneak peak of our latest Painless Activism Education Device: Duke Anti-Nuke.
We bundled a hundred Fun and Fearsome Facts about nuclear weapons and nuclear power into a platform game featuring our hero, Duke, as he strives to convert nuclear power plants into windmills and solar farms and disarm those pesky WMDs before the evil terrorists get to them. The facts about all things nuclear have been shredded by a smarmy Nuclear Industry publicist, and it’s Duke’s job to gather them up.
Rich Salter and Denise Wilton put this together. I’m really lame at platform games, so in order to test some of the higher levels and see the win screens, I needed somebody who could actually get past that nasty place in screen three where the radioactive waste starts leaking and you have to dodge guards, falls, AND radioactive drops.
So I sat my son down, (he could mouse around by the time he was 3) and we went head to head on our two pcs in the basement in a weekend-long Duke challenge. I haven’t had so much damn fun in ages.
But while at 7 years old Doon could appreciate the gameplay, he certainly missed the message. The son of a peace activist had one improvement suggestion: Duke should have a gun, so he can shoot the guards.
We didn’t implement that particular change request.
What’s *your* favourite game with a message?