Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Subtle propaganda?

A few years ago I ran across a nuclear power plant simulator PC game. What a propaganda opportunity that could be - all they'd have to do is make it impossible to win the game and voila - an insidious message that reactors are unsafe.

Glenn Reynolds approves of his daughter's play with The Sims and The Sims 2. He says he got a column out of this - it'll be interesting to see what he says. For me, I've always meant to take a look at some of the Sims games, which have been out for around 15 years now in one form or another. But then it's not as if I don't spend enough time on the computer already.

GR says "It apparently conveys the message that if you marry a loser, he'll probably stay a loser, and your kids are likely to be losers, too." Sounds realistic to me. But....

Of course the game is just a model, and presumably we adults know that. We can play it as a diversion, and we're in a position to know when real life ain't that way. But for kids I have to wonder if it couldn't lead them in the wrong direction.

(My concerns are similar for kids and porn movies. No one will tell them that's an exceptional size, they looped the tape to make it last longer, things didn't happen in that sequence, a professional was paid a bonus for that, they're only in that position because of lighting and camera angles, they just spent 20 minutes cleaning, stretching and lubing off-camera before that happened, they get tested for diseases every week, they used a stand-in for that, most people don't groom like that, they're not even practicing "safe sex"... Do you want a kid who learned sex from porn going out with your kid?)

If kids run their own scenarios with the Sims and see how they turn out, in the absence of real world experience that *is* their experience. So what if the Sims don't accurately reflect reality, or consciously bias it toward a particular political POV?

The game has been out for some time - presumably some people out there are in a position to say whether it behaves consistent with human nature, or if it is somehow tuned with some "values" so that the good guys usually win, etc. Even so, it would have to be retested with each version.

I guess I'll have to check it out someday.

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