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    Sep 25th, 2018 at 00:23:27     -    1979 Revolution: Black Friday (PC)

    I jumped back into the game at the protest where Abbas was speaking and I first see Bibi. When Ali and the soldiers show up I had an interesting crossover in my gaming experiences. Ali wanted Reza to join him in throwing rocks at the soldiers because they are agents of the Shah and therefore bad people to be given no quarter. Babak urged Reza to abstain, stating that the soldiers are captive to their position, needing the wage the job offers to support their family; they are not necessarily bad people, just in a no win scenario. This immediately conjured memories of my experience with "Papers Please" in which you play a conscripted border guard in a 1980s soviet-like country. Playing that game made me very aware of how such a circumstance, that of having to rely on a job which demands compliance to a system and authority with which you may not agree, has the power to persuade otherwise sensitive and compassionate people to be insensitive and callous. Through this lens, I opted to refrain from the violent acts against the soldiers.

    Having read the chapters on Utilitarianism today, it is hard for me to know exactly how to weigh the morality of that choice under that school of thought. Clearly the current Shah's rule is creating a huge amount of unhappiness, and protests appear to be efforts to achieve better happiness under a new rule. However, the game heavily implies that the soldiers are there to enact forcible silence and perhaps violence. Where Utilitarianism is concerned with the consequences of actions, discerning which layer of consequences is the most pertinent is hard. Is the immediate safety of the protesters (or soldier for that matter) paramount? Or does the success of the protest, which may be a critical moment to create peace, a more desirable outcome even if the soldiers succeed in harming and arresting more people; though the soldiers could also take it too far and create far more misery. Still further, is Ali's path of clear violent resistance ultimately something that would best communicate the unrest and sacrifice immediate safety for a clearer message and perhaps commutation of results preventing prolonged misery? This is what is difficult for Utilitarianism for me is that it is so hard to weigh outcomes against one another when each is so difficult to imagine with any real certainty.

    As an extension, in the later scenes of interrogation and conversations with the revolutionaries in the cinema, I opted to tell the truth under the utilitarian tenant that it is the preferable thing to do because it usually results in positive outcomes. However, in the case of the prison at least, this seemed to result in rather unfavorable behavior. Though I told my interrogator what I believed to be the truth, the game was interpreting it that I was uncooperative and so Hossein, my brother paid the price. I am not certain whether this rule got me into trouble, or this was again my misunderstanding of some contexts that I don't fully understand.

    Ending on that note, I am doing my best to give this game the benefit of the doubt despite its shortcomings in presentation, and I am very interested and engrossed in the material that it is presenting, however I can't help but feel that it is unfair to a player like myself. This game was clearly made by people intimately familiar with the subject, and appears to have been created for the purpose of teaching those unfamiliar about the events and what they meant on a more personal level. In some ways, I feel that I am likely right in the middle of the target audience. However, I often feel that the game is often punishing me for not having a large pool of prior knowledge about Iranian culture and the events of the revolution. This was most poignant in the first prison scene where the interrogator offers me tea, I was supposed to give a response within the given time, and at the same time a journal entry about tea etiquette culture in Iran popped up. I didn't know how to access the journal and certainly couldn't have accessed it in the time given to offer a response. So I just had to guess. Thankfully in that scenario I accepted the tea which is the polite response. But the point is that this was a highly culturally-charged decision with potentially heavy consequences. Allegedly the character Reza would have been aware of this social norm, and certainly the interrogator knew, it was only me who was left out but nonetheless had to decide what was to transpire. It feels unfair to ask me to bear the burden of choices I don't understand I am making, but the game assumes that I do. Perhaps the game's intention is to let uneducated players get a rough round, hoping that they will be inspired to play through again, being better educated and thus have a more fulfilling second go. But even this intention seems unfair, counterproductive, and creates a cultural schism between Iranian player character Reza, and me.

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    Sep 24th, 2018 at 00:03:53     -    1979 Revolution: Black Friday (PC)

    Full disclosure, I knew next to nothing about this period in Iran. If I'm completely honest, I don't really know that much about Iran in general. So the fact that the game threw me in right away asking me to make an assertion through a single statement like: "peace is the best weapon", "violence justifies means", "freedom or death", or "not worth the sacrifice" was very intimidating. Being that this is about real events which have already transpired, I felt like the moment was asking me for my pre-formed perspective on the scenario. So the fact that I had none, I felt entirely unequipped to make such a statement. Nevertheless, a decision had to be made, so I selected "Freedom or death".

    The scene that followed in the prison was very similar. The interactions with the interrogator seemed centered around cultural norms and differences held at the current direction and state of cultural vectors. The game asks for responses in a short timespan so I usually don't understand the context of what is actually being asked until the consequence is being played out. This scene made me think about cultural relativism, not necessarily in assessing whether aspects of the culture was right or wrong, but moreso in the foreignness of the situation. As someone who knows almost nothing about the justice structure of the country, what various titles mean, what it means to accept or reject tea, all I can see is one person being violently interrogated by another. I can of course take dramatic cues from the situation as it plays out to understand the good guys from bad guys, the fact that I am "controlling" one of them is a good indicator as well, but I can't really understand the range of the situation. This wouldn't be so bad, if the game wasn't demanding me to make responses in such situations. I just felt that I was boiling the choices down to whether or not to be cooperative, though knowing full well there was deeper contexts at work.

    The following two chapters were far more helpful and illuminating. The act of snapping photos of pertinent events nearby and reading more information about that particular facet helped me develop a better picture of what is happening and for what reasons. It was also helpful that I could ask my boyfriend about details I couldn't sort out on my own such as the government structure and who some of the key figures were. Additionally, I can confidently say that I now know several times more about Iranian culture than I ever have.

    A point that stuck out to me about the chapter where you wander the streets, was that there is much written about cultural shifting from a very Western-influenced society to one which is staunchly western-opposed. These shifts seem to be helmed by the leaders which prevailed after the changes in power. Each seems to espouse a sort of a cultural relativism that the culture before and the insurgent culture that wishes to depose them are inherently worse mostly because they are simply not what is the current culture. I understand that it is Ayatollah Khomeini who historically comes to power after the period in this game. So it is interesting to see the way the game regards him. In the beginning he is the revolutionary voice whose propaganda is the lit torch for many of the young friend characters at this point. His speeches are aspirational for a free future and harsh to the current culture. I will be interested to see how this view shifts, as it seems it must given the events of the first two chapters.

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    Aug 28th, 2018 at 20:37:18     -    Little Nightmares (PS4)

    While the last areas of the game give more insight to the context and location of these events, the game staunchly refains from making many firm declarations.

    The onboarding of guests to the behemoth the game takes place in, and the grotesque scenes of their feasting answered my previous question about who was eating all the food the cooks were preparing. My eventual failure to avoid one of these voracious guests also more firmly placed them as an objective threat, in that he ate me. This placed the player character more definitively in a survival and self-defense position in my mind.

    Conversely, in one of the more uneasing scenes of the game, the player character feeds on a gnome even though that very same gnome offers out a more than ample sausage. I felt vindicated in my earlier suspicions of the player character and their supposed implicit righteousness.

    It would seem that the events of the end, where the player character feeds on the shadow woman, that the player character is simply a monster. Exacerbated by the fact that when imbued with the shadow woman's power, it proceeds to directly kill several guests during the final scene. However, it could be argued that the compromises the player character had to make to reach this point somehow intoxicated it with some form of evil, culminating in its absorption of the shadow woman's darkness. The player character becomes infected, and is so overtaken.

    Trying to work from this perspective, I focus on the game's persistent theme of food, consumption, and eating. Eating is a necessary facet of life as we know it; nothing that abstains from food or water survives for very long. More often than not, one living organism must consume another living organism, whether plant or animal. In the same way, each time something is consumed in the game, something else loses. The figure in the beginning that gives up its plate is the most mild example. But the player character continues to escalate its apetite, going from necessity to a sort of preference. The action of the game ramps up as food becomes more present. From the complete lack of food in the beginning to piles of it later.

    While the game flirts with elements of imprisonment, torture, and despair, it seems to me that the game places the ethical question of consumption at its center and posits an escalating extreme. The player character is starving, and another person willingly gives up food for it; I thought it was tragic but sweet. The player is trapped by the long-armed enemy using food as a lure; a threat that takes advantage of this base need. The player character eats a rat caught in a trap; it is gross, but can be understood given dire circumstances. The player character feeds on the gnome despite easily accessible food; this crosses the line from survival to corruption. The player character feeds on the woman; this is wholesale voraciousness. Eating becomes less about survival as it does about dominance.

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    Aug 27th, 2018 at 15:14:59     -    Little Nightmares (PS4)

    The fact that I, as the player, do not know the context in which the events of the game take place, there is an odd feeling that I am only spectating despite having direct control of a character. The sensation is much like entering a circle of people who are in the middle of a conversation where one of them is relaying an experience. They are at the point where pronouns replace proper names, the location is implied, and the most pertinent bits are coming to light. You can't really participate, so only listening is possible and you are keenly aware that the image you're developing in your mind is not likely to be accurate. You can only react as events transpire and the base quality of the action is relayed. Others in the conversation may "ooo" or "ahh" while you are left unaffected, being oblivious to some contextual plot twist. As I traversed through the kitchen level of the game, this feeling grew. Who is eating all this meat? Why are these creatures masquerading as mundane cooks? I still don't know where this is, maybe some kind of boat.

    It was this awareness and the fact that we left off in class about bad arguments, which many are rooted in some kind of ignorance or assumption of fact, to question what I assumed about the game. I think the base assumption most players make when starting a single-player game is that their player is the hero, the protagonist, the force for positive change, perhaps the most righteous. In this game, I continually find myself wondering if the little raincoat-clad character deserves that distinction. Sure, its design is charming and the gruesome creatures that lurk in these environments are repulsive and seem intent on detaining the character, but the only real redeeming quality I've yet seen is that it will hug the little gnomes. However, while the gnomes are charming in their own way as well, I have no real reason to believe that they are a positive force, or that hugging them suggests a righteous intent.

    Also, while being captured the large creatures results in a checkpoint reset for the player, it is curious that the enemies only capture the player character and do not invoke any real violence. But the player character cuts off the arms of the long-armed enemy and feeds on an injured but live rat. Coupling these with the self-centric behavior I noted in the first log, it paints an image of the player character that is not entirely flattering. These can certainly be explained as the necessities for survival, sure, but that assumes that being captured by the large creatures is in fact a terrible fate, and that the player character's goal is escape or prevailing over the evil.

    The level was to some extent less intense than the long-armed enemy level so it was a bit easier to think about these things. Games like this rely a lot on the faith of the player to fill in the gaps of reasoning and to intertwine the object of their control with moral justification. But so far, I've only been witness to a series of events in a vacuum of context. So I remain suspicious.

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