Videogames of the Oppressed

For example, let’s imagine that the protagonist’s problem is that he is being bullied at school and he doesn’t know how to deal with this. In order to simulate his problem, he could use a Pac-Man template and modify the original game. He would replace the Pac-Man with a cartoon version of himself and replace the ghosts with images of his harassers. In addition to this, he could also take away the score feature and the pills, leaving nothing but a labyrinth where he is being constantly chased. Once that game is posted online, the other members of the group could respond by creating variants. One of them could be to modify the structure of the labyrinth to create a small space where the protagonist could live isolated, safe from the bullies. But other players could say that this means giving up his freedom and, therefore, that it is not a good solution. Then, another player could suggest using violence, by introducing weapons on the environment. Another may suggest introducing more players (several Pac-Mans) who would stick together and defend themselves as a group of virtual vigilantes. Of course, somebody may argue that it is technically impossible to be all the time surrounded by your friends: the bullies will find you alone sooner or later. —Gonzalo FrascaVideogames of the Oppressed (Electronic Book Review)

Frasca rather brilliantly follows a line from Brecht’s theater of alienation through Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Augosto Boal’s “Theater of the Oppressed,” and hypothesizes an iterative, sequentially collaborative game development process that preserves the player’s social distance from a character, yet enables the attempt to use the medium of the video game to find a solution to a social problem.