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Feature: 'Soapbox: Why You Owe the Columbine RPG'

For today's exclusive main feature, Gamasutra contributor Patrick Dugan details the history of the controversy behind Danny Ledonne's Super Columbine Massacre RPG!, with interv
For today's exclusive main feature, Gamasutra contributor Patrick Dugan details the history of the controversy behind Danny Ledonne's Super Columbine Massacre RPG!, with interview quotes and personal anecdotes. In this excerpt, Dugan looks explicitly at the design of the game, saying that part of the reason non-gamer critics have been troubled by the game is its shifting mix of social commentary and satire, especially in the 'Hell' portion of the game: "The game demonstrates, like other titles such as Disaffected!, Ayiti: The Cost Of Life, and Darfur Is Dying, how gameplay that is not fun can be very compelling. All of these titles have been free to play, and have no alternative monetization (except for ads, in Persuasive Game's case). In Super Columbine's case, the extremity of the public reaction, and the role it forces you to play, make it particularly important. Ironically, the introduction of play that is compelling but not fun to game designers has been the most marginal benefit the game has brought - so far - though its my hope that this article will inspire current and future designers to explore the medium more fully. Part of the reason that non-gamer critics have had trouble parsing SCMRPG! is that half of the game is social commentary, but the other half is a satire of conventional gaming tropes. The power fantasy, a trope represented in at least 90% of games on the market, is subverted with gratuitous item text ("You got a .45 Carbine rifle complete with shoulder strap!") and leveling that comes at the expense of young lives. The part of the game most pointed to as clearly lacking compassion, the Doom-monster ridden journey through hell, is where the game's emphasis shifts most dramatically. The school shooting is 65% social commentary, 35% critique of traditional game design, in hell this ratio flips, where the social commentary comes in the form of metaphysical critique (Mega Man is in hell because he's an Android, Nietszche is in hell for saying "God Is Dead") and the power fantasy is more strongly parodied. Disparate voices have been saying we should move on to other psychological modes, that "fun" is a four letter word, but Super Columbine lays out the case implicitly, and may well be taught in future game design theory classes for this reason." You can now read the full Gamasutra feature on the subject, with much more on the history of the game, the wake of the first press reactions, and commentary from other developers on the game (no registration required, please feel free to link to this column from external websites).

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