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Degree of possibility in delivering a message through simulation

by Jonghwa Kim

One of the most controversial games JFK: Reloaded simulates the historical event in a realistic game environment. By putting a player into the simulation of the historical event and act as the assassin, the author’s intention was to disprove any conspiracy theory that someone else was involved in the assassination of President Kennedy. Not to mention how controversial this topic is, players’ reactions to this game ask an important question about how should simulation deliver its message.

In his essay Ludology Meets Narratology, Gonzalo Frasca separates the activity of playing game as paidea and ludus. Paidea refers to the physical or mental activity of play itself, which does not have specific objective rather than just pleasure during the activity. Ludus is a particular kind of paidea which has specific rules and victory conditions that result in a quantifiable outcome.

The game lets player engage in both activity. For ludus, there’s a specific goal for players to follow, replicate Oswald’s shooting in November 22, 1963 as accurately as possible, which the result is provided as numeric score. However, this game also provides a space of paidea. It’s realistic physics engine and settings makes it possible for players to play with the game element: player can derail a vehicle by shooting a driver, headshot a police just for fun, and sometimes use a glitch in the physics engine to fly away a person up to the sky. During this play activity, players do not care about the goal. Indeed, they get pleasure by actively trying to digress from the goal and destroying the game structure.

This kind of activity makes the UCC video like JFK: Reloaded Phun with Physics possible. Though it is based on a parody UCC culture, the video seems very offending to many people. It looks like, and it is, making fun of JFK by playing with his ragdoll replica.

Was this kind of activity in the author’s intention? According to Gonzalo’s another essay Simulation versus Narrative, it is the author’s decision to make what’s in there to be there. Whether or not the author intended to make such plays possible, it seems the author tried to give players some paidea activity, not just making them to follow the objective. Though it has succeeded to give players pleasure, it also faced an inevitable ethical criticism.

According to Gonzalo, Simulation does not deal with what happened or is happening, but with what may happen. And “Unlike narrative and drama, the essence simulation lays on a basic assumption: change is possible”. (Simulation versus Narrative, Gonzalo)

This gives arise to a question that how much possibilities should simulation offer to the players. Allowing too much playful activity can disturb its message, especially when the message is correctly delivered only if players follow the rules. The answer seems quite hard to answer. As Gonzalo put, “Narrative may excel at taking snapshots at particular events but simulation provides us with a rhetorical tool for understanding the big picture.”(Simulation versus Narrative, Gonzalo), it looks like the method of delivering message in simulation should match with the contents and essence of the message.

Simulation to further explore

by Chris Pratola

This was an interested video and simulation. I vaguely remember it when if first came out, but I never got experience the gameplay before it was eventually taken off web. I strongly feel that we shouldn't have to be censored as far as how far the simulation experience will go. The JFK assasination has been something that has been widely questioned for a long time. I think that it is a great learning experience, if following the games instructions, to critically analyze history, and historical events. Could this actually happen? Now, the game has glitches like every digital medium, but how accurate is it. I think it becomes a problem when people use it just to shoot at people, and because it is a famous president, they want to play around even more. Looking at Gone Gitmo game, which is another simulation like game associated with second life, we can created environments that we can't even photograph or film to understand what conditions are like. I am a big believer in the government has too much control and will continue to try to gain more control by using scare tactics to pretty much make us fear for our lives. I think by using simulations like this, we can investigate if there are any sketchy things going on. There have been arguments for and against simulations like this and the JFK Reloaded. I think that these simulations result because we are not given information from the right resources to make find these things out so we have to explore them in other areas. Now that the world is almost completely a digital phenomenon, we will begin to see more and more games like this that explore aspects of journalism in a digital and non threatening way to explore diferent conditions and situations that we normally would not have experienced anywhere else. 




JFK:Reloaded Phun with Physics

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UCC video about playing with the physics engine of JFK: Reloaded, a game about simulating JFK assassination.

from JFK: Reloaded (2004)
Creator: Natas347
Distributor: Natas347
Posted by Survey of Interactive Media