Aki Järvinen, of the University of Tampere in Finland, has just defended his phd thesis- his opening statements may be read here.
[…]we arrive at the question concerning games’ nature as, supposedly, ‘mere’ entertainment versus something that has persuasive powers; powers to change and influence our beliefs, and possibly persuade us to take action once the game is over. If we accept a hypothesis according to which games, like any other form of communication, are able to persuade their players, in other words either shape their beliefs, responses, or even behaviour, then we have to accept the postulation that play may lead to many varieties of behaviour, even harmful behaviour.
Without resorting to populist rhetoric, this nevertheless is a thought that, in my experience, too few game developers, in their urgency to create business growth through ‘mere’ entertainment, contemplate upon. In the thesis under examination, I promote the idea of game design through metaphors that create emotional attachment – however, it is metaphors and simulations of death that get proliferated in games – and, deservedly in part, games with vividly designed metaphors of death thus gain public dissent.
His thoughtful musings are well worth considering for anybody interested in the nature of games, and their persuasive power. I haven’t fully explored his blog yet, but there looks to be a substantial amount of material from his thesis there. Memo to all grad students out there: get yourself a blog, and use it to develop your thoughts and bounce them off others. Aki’s is a model to follow!