In the beginning, video game designers looked not to cinema but to sport for inspiration. Pong, Atari’s rudimentary game in which you bat a phosphorous ball across an onyx screen, is tennis redacted. Space Invaders is clay pigeon shooting on the day of Armageddon. Pac-Man is a game of famished hide-and-seek. These days, however, video game designers are searching closer to home for inspiration.10 Seconds in Hell uses the medium to communicate the abject terror of the domestic abuse victim. That Dragon, Cancer is an unflinching document of a family’s experience of a child’s illness and death. Cart Life offers an affecting study of contemporary life in America for those working on the poverty line.
These are just some of the examples of games attempting to explore more solemn, weightier subjects. There are many more – albeit primarily from independent sectors; no major studio has yet attempted a Schindler’s List-style blockbuster, therefore the commercial viability of such an endeavour is uncertain, even if scores of designers are surely eager to take on such an artistic challenge.
Increasingly, games are being used in education as they are a familiar learning context for our students and often one of the advantages is that the learning is subtle but accessible to students. As long as serious topics are handled with appropriate maturity and respect, I'm all for the use of "video" games to develop our youth's understanding and awareness of what can be some fairly difficult issues or topics to present via traditional means.