President Donald Trump kicked off his meeting with critics and members of the video game industry last week with a gameplay montage video that was so violent it stunned the room to silence. Games for Change, an organization dedicated to exploring the use of video games to drive real-world impact, Monday released its own gameplay montage meant to highlight not the context-free violence of some games, but the beauty found in most.
As with the White House violence video, the Games for Change video runs 88 seconds long. It features painterly landscapes, dazzling worlds and plenty of action. The montage includes a total of 21 games from 21 developers ranging from esoteric indies like E-Line Media’s Never Alone and Jonathan Blow’s The Witness to massive blockbusters like Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Epic Games’ Fortnite.
Asi Burak, chairman of the nonprofit Games for Change, tells Glixel that the idea of the video came to him after watching the video shown by Trump in his White House meeting last week. (The author of this story is an unpaid member of Games for Change's advisory board.)
“It was really tough to watch [the Trump video] because we’ve been dedicating our career for years and years to do several things that the video is going against,” Burak says. That includes trying to explain the nuance found in the video game industry to a broad audience, reaching out to non-gamers about the broad range of games created by developers and getting parents to think about games in a more sophisticated way, he says. “Those 88 seconds paints the industry with a broad brush.”
So Burak contacted Games for Change president Susanna Pollack and asked her about the group creating its own 88-second video, a montage designed to show the beauty and diversity that can be found in games. “How they can connect people and that they are a powerful artistic medium.”
The video came together over the weekend and Burak is quick to point out that it could have been done in hundreds of different ways. “This was our way to do it,” he says.
Pollack says that the video is meant to show support for both the people who make games and the people who play them. “We hope it helps drive more conversations around the positive nature of games,” she says.
Both Pollack and Burak say they viewed the meeting Trump held to discuss video games and violence as redundant and unnecessary. Pollack notes that the White House has held similar meetings over the past few decades and that the results have always been the same: “There is no scientific evidence of a connection between playing violent video games and acting out violence.”
Instead, Pollack says she would prefer there be a broader, more positive conversation about the impact games have on society. “Shift it more toward a central place,” she says. “Talk about all aspects of games as well as how games are played by youth and what they’re about.”
Games for Change finds itself in an interesting position concerning the debate about the influence violent video games may have on players. Founded in 2004, Games for Change says it “works with game creators and social innovators to drive real-world change using games and technology that help people to learn, improve their communities, and contribute to make the world a better place.” With its central goal comes the belief that games can influence the people who play them.
Pollak, though, notes that Games for Change isn’t exclusively about changing behavior. “Other changes that happen with games include bringing communities together through a social network, helping to educate or raising awareness,” she says. “It’s a medium like other forms of entertainment that kind of have multiple forms of influence.”
Burak co-wrote a book, Power Play, on the topic of social impact games. He says that while researching it they spoke with the researchers behind Re-Mission, a game designed to help with patients undergoing cancer treatment. “They said that when they achieved a positive impact through the game it was a very, very tough thing to do,” Burak says. “ It wasn’t random. It wasn’t accidental. Those guys took years of research to achieve the goal they wanted. Games can influence the people who play them, but it can’t be a coincidence. You would need the same type of diligence and rigidness and research to do the opposite [of a positive influence.] It’s not easy.”