This article appeared in the January 04, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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Gaming a future that prizes compassion

PRNewsFoto/Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences
The team from thatgamecompany accepted Game of the Year honors for ‘Journey’ at the 2013 D.I.C.E. Awards in Las Vegas. From left to right: Tom Frisina, Kellee Santiago, Jenova Chen, Robin Hunicke, Martin Middleton.
Clayton Collins
Director, editorial innovation

Even if your own video-gaming days date back to Atari Pong, you’ve surely noticed the entertainment art’s halting evolution – and its see-sawing reputation.

Along the way to fueling big-money “esports,” gaming has reflected some real social ugliness – the blatant misogyny of Grand Theft Auto, the sociopolitical violence of Red Dead Redemption 2.

It has also showcased efforts to teach complex systems (Sims) and even to promote physical activity (sports games for Wii). Today social media and even staid magazines buzz with player-tip trades about Fortnite, the deeply immersive diversion of the moment.

Gaming is too nuanced to deserve binary views, but extremes stand out. This week brought news of a recruitment campaign by the British Army that links some dark stereotypes about young gamers to military skills.

But also in the news: a profile of Jenova Chen, an independent game designer. One of his offerings, Flower, was enshrined in the Smithsonian in 2013. (Its players inhabit the wind and affect environmental change.)

His next act: Sky. It’s a phone-app-based game “about ‘spreading light,’ ” writes Quartz’s Ephrat Livni. For its players, “ ‘generosity and compassion [are] key’ to finding their way.”

Can the thinking that Chen’s art reflects seep into the gaming culture – and the broader culture? “I realized the only winning condition is to do something that isn’t about you,” he told Quartz; “you can win when you focus on change.”

Now to our five stories for your Friday. 

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This article appeared in the January 04, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 01/04 edition