Gamers Discuss How Games Influence Their Opinions
Patch asked whether simulations like SimCity could impact their thoughts on public policy.
In February, Hopkins Patch asked users on the message boards for the official SimCity website and popular videogame website Quarter To Three a series of questions about whether SimCity could affect their opinions on public policy:
- Could the transportation model in a blockbuster franchise like SimCity lead to certain assumptions in players’ minds that shape opinions on public policy?
- What choices do designers have to make when modeling something in the real world?
- Are these choices impacted by the designers’ biases and worldview?
- What impact do those choices have on how players interpret the real world?
Patch received a variety of answers that covered the full spectrum of opinion. Below are selected excerpts from the discussion. Check them out, and then share your thoughts on Hopkins Patch.
I think it’s relatively unlikely that SimCity would change my opinions on public policy (after all, if things in the game don’t work like I expect them to, I probably assume the game is unrealistic). If it has a track record of being able to accurately model real-world cities, then I guess people will use it to model cities. I do, however, intend to try out transit-oriented cities. I’m eager to give passenger rail a try. Zoning high density around a few transit corridors is actually built in.
Dunno about transportation, but I sure as heck appreciate sewage collection and electricity a lot more now.
I don't think SC will change my opinions on public policy. My home city is a very very transport oriented city. All the high, and medium density areas are around BRT corridors. And I like the way it is.
No, it's just a game.
I doubt it. There are too many important controls missing for it to completely model how cities work.
No I will not change my ideas, because this game is made by liberals who do not properly represent the social economic factors of reality in their simulation. Just look at how power plants are used in this game, or how plopping parks everywhere some how makes sims super happy.
From what I played in the beta the traffic was certainly more accurate compared to any other game I could think of but I don't think it the simulation is good enough to convince people to prefer certain methods of travel. Perhaps someday we would have a simulation that could not only convince others but also be used for actually planning how a place could best handle transportation but this game certainly is not quite there yet.
I think it's largely impossible for a game designer to NOT transpose their own beliefs into a game system. Since they have to create a cause and effect rule system, they can't possibly include all options. So the effects they include will be both what they consider most probable and likely outcomes. If that person has a hard set belief that X is bad or Y is good. Then we'll see that represented. For instance, the concept of running a town or city on solar power would be HUGELY unprofitable in today’s world. But since it's apparently attractive to the designers, we see the solar plants re-appear in the games.
Yes, the game designers choices do influence my perception of the real-world process. It would be ignorant for me to think it does not. The longer I will play SimCity, the more I’m likely to perceive certain transportation options as better. … The human mind responds in certain ways to positive and negative feedback. The longer I play SimCity the more positive feedback I will experience using the transportation choices the game designers built in as "best". … It will not be the only and maybe not the biggest influence on how I create my own view on transportation, but it certainly will influence it. And I cant repeat it enough, the more I play, the more the influence will be. … As a closing note, it does influence but the effect is negligible. If you aware of this, the influence is less. It is the same as with commercials and violence in games. That you perceive it doesn't mean it makes you do it.
I'm not a designer, but yeah, I'm fairly sure that games lead to assumptions in players' minds. That's the whole rationale behind gamification, which I regard as a great evil of the age.
I think games have the same advantages and pitfalls of all entertainment media. They're a great way to disseminate information and highlight social issues, but with the caveat that the information may be simplified or otherwise altered in the name of entertainment.
I agree, because the whole premise behind having 'games' at all is to learn (learn by play), you see it in the animal kingdom also. To the gamer that doesn't want to think deep on it, a game is merely a passing distraction, something to keep them occupied, but the basis of games and why they exist is more relevant and powerful than that, they have always been a fundamental part of life and experience and learning. It's one reason I'm down on the hyper-violence games industry (often sponsored by the weapons industry) in general.
I think it's fairly obvious that games can have an impact on the way people approach problems. A city builder like SimCity is essentially a model representing the real world using certain assumptions. Playing the game habituates the player to those assumptions. Essentially, you're spending a very long time testing the model that the designers put into place, but without any checks back to the real world, as would be done in an academic environment. … That all being said, I think you'd have to really look at the data to see if this has any potential impact on real-world policy decisions. You'd need to look at sales numbers, demographic information about how likely SimCity players are to vote, etc. to see if there's any kind of meaningful voting block. If it was really huge, like pop-culture saturation … it would be a different story. But I just don't see that happening. It's also possible that a single mayor/councilman, etc. in the right position playing the game would skew the policy accordingly, but that would be a pretty long shot.