Posed with the proliferation of video games that feature violent shooter scenarios, Professor Kerry Richardson of the Art Institute of Chicago and Professor Steve Ciampaglia of Northern Illinois University are working on an alternative for young people. “Commercial video games such as Call of Duty and Battlefield focus on the warfare and weaponry so these games are going to be about what it’s really like to be a member of the U.S. military,” Ciampaglia told DNA Info.
 
The two professors are offering teens in Chicago an opportunity to create video games featuring political awareness and social causes at their Plug-In Studio. They worked with black teenagers on the South Side of Chicago to create games that are immersed in issues such as white privilege, peer pressure, immigration, and police.
 
Richardson said she called on students to choose “social issues meaningful to them” to be reflected in the games.
 
In an interview with DNA Info, participant Gerald Brown said the video game project serves to balances the “video game industry demographically and narratively.” Brown said that few video game programmers are “people of color,” and added that “white people” are “programming these games off of stereotypes. Black guys stealing cars and selling drugs.” Brown also complained that there are few women involved in production.
 
Prof. Richardson said he wants to change the paradigm, allow participants to create their own images and games and “put them out in the world.”
 
In a video produced by the studio, a student explained that in his game, the goal is to avoid ravenous zombies. In the case of a white character in the game, a door opens up and allows him to escape. Escape for a black character, however, is impossible. “The metaphor is that the superior race gets more opportunities than the minority race does.”
 
One the games were ready, they set up as a temporary arcade on a street where the local community was invited to play. Richardson called it a success, while she added that the work of the participants engaged people and put them into a “place where they’re forced to consider.” The games are now available on the internet. By Veterans Day, the group hopes to have realistic military video games ready.



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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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