Sunday, September 11, 2011

Is it possible to make a thoughtful video game about 9/11 without fearing for your life?

I had never seen The Falling Man before today, a photo so iconic of 9/11 and representative of human tragedy, because it was censored so completely. (Both Esquire pieces also persuasively argue against the "think of the children / we don't know who that is but it's someone" argument for banning it.)

It's been the most life-altering, world-changing event in recent history -- and I think if you built a well-made, thoughtful indie game that is overtly representational of it in any way, no matter how sympathetic the portrayal, it will always be labeled "crass exploitation" by many. You will receive death threats and probably widespread condemnation, especially from many in the "games are art" contingent. (In NYC there was a thoughtfully crafted statue of a "jumper" that was removed after a week, critics argued the art was too powerful and amplified sadness and pain too much.)

Of course, most of the condemnation will come from people who haven't and never will play the game, those who think games are only for kids and blah blah blah. It'd just be your simple act of creation that was so offensive. Let's not even think about what Fox News would say about you.

We already have thoughtful books about it and a thoughtful but ultimately disappointing seven-season TV series about it. Those forms of culture have been widely accepted as authentic and acceptable.

Are there video games about 9/11 already out there, ones that aren't specifically intended to offend and shock "for lulz"? (Most of the 9/11 games I've seen take a cynical "for lulz" approach, essentially the coward's way out.) But that photo above was informally banned because it was too powerful, too thoughtful and too sensitive.

I only know of one game that kind of just throws it out there, a 2002 Half-Life 1 single player mod called "Timeline III" has a sequence where you're in a WTC office and look out the window as a plane comes careening toward you, if I recall correctly. Then I think you get teleported out. (Though now I fear I imagined it, as none of the comments on PlanetPhillip mention it at all.)

What do we think, readers? Is it possible to make a thoughtful video game about 9/11 without fearing for your life? What would that game look like?

EDIT: I've suddenly remembered Molleindustria's "Inside a Dead Skyscraper."