It’s been nearly a year now since we last took a look at serious games. And in that nine-month span, the genre has stalled, sputtered, nearly fallen into irrelevance and reinvented itself. From the outside, the genre’s meteoric rise hit a wall with Super Columbine Massacre RPG!, Danny Ledonne’s story of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris’ last day on Earth. The media gobbled up the game, as did anti-game crusaders, and once the hype receded and the protests ended, the world stopped listening. But the genre’s still there, its image shifting and expanding.
Nowadays, serious games aren’t just about mass murder; serious games are about everything, from anthropological research to art exhibits to virtual nation building. And given the nature of the genre’s first rise to prominence, it’s refreshing to see there’s stuff out there that makes the world a better place, beyond helping us understand our darker side. And that side of the movement is growing every day.
And that’s what we’re covering here in Issue 121, “Social Studies,” our second look at serious games. In “Diplomacy Island,” Melody Lutz looks in on Annenberg Island in Second Life and the effect it may one day have on international relations. Ben Sawyer debunks 10 myths about the serious games genre. Darshana Jayemanne visits the Games Lab at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image and speaks to its curator, Helen Stuckey. Charles Wheeler looks at the cultural implications of dating simulators. And yours truly talks to Andrew Lee, creator of Fantasy Congress about an informed citizenry and the referendum average.