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    GaryDoesThings's 1979 Revolution: Black Friday (PC)

    [September 27, 2018 12:54:35 AM]
    Having finished this game, as well as having had the lecture on utilitarianism, I am still perplexed by the question of how justifiable one's projections or aspirations for future consequences are for their actions. Specifically, in terms of the game, centering around the idea of protests and aligning oneself with a cause. The narrative of the game, and its subject matter, is rife with the interplay and juxtaposition of various political and social ideals. Through the course of the game I was presented with people and perspectives of communists, religious devotees, capitalism, and nationalists. Each believing that the consequences of their ideals provides the best way forward for their country, or even humanity. Really the only reason a subset of these are united in this circumstance is the mutual rejection of the current rule over the country.

    In such a situation, where there is clear need or indeed even inevitability for a current government to be unseated, how does or can one ethically align themselves with a political or social idea to replace it? The utilitarian perspective instantly gets thrown into generalities as everyone in your country, or even the world, would be affected by such a change, and wrangling the calculus of that utility would quickly become ungainly. The Kantian approach on the other hand requires a maxim with which to posit as a universal law, this borders on tautological when speaking about political and social causes. Trying to deduce the strengths and pitfalls of these causes and their maxims would likewise result in amorphous outcomes. Though I think maybe I am having a trouble of scale, or nesting the ideas of political and social causes with moral frameworks in a nonsensical manner. Political and social ideals are in many ways posited moral frameworks of their own, so trying to evaluate them using another framework would only cause circular thinking. I guess my assumption was that the game had asked me to take a particular affiliation, which I don't think is actually the case. Rather it purposefully kept Reza as an outsider so that I could judge the scenarios from a "purely" moral standpoint.

    It doesn't seem like a particularly revolutionary idea, it is common in stories to bring an unencumbered outsider to a developed and complicated situation. This is usually a device that creators use to slowly introduce the audience to the scenario, they learn as the character learns, and Revolution 1979 makes use of Reza in a similar way. But I feel this device is more pertinent given the subject matter and the fact it is an interactive experience. As mentioned, the game and time period is characterized by a complicated clashing of cultures, causes, and belief systems. Reza is invested by his identity as an Iranian, but has been gone a long period such that he is at first unconnected to the current situation. He has no prior affiliation with any of the causes or ideals save for that he does have and care for a family, one in which each member aligns with a separate cause. In this way, Reza, and by extension the player, are able to divorce themselves from making decisions by affiliation, and instead take each scenario at its base moral level. The game does not consistently ask whether communism, nationalism, or religion is correct or moral. Instead asks "do you forfeit the safety of your family for your own?", "are you blameless in the consequences of your published photos, whether or not you intended them to be published?", and "can violence be justified"? In this way, the game provides an independent, generalized perspective, one that can be colored by a lens like utilitarianism, kantism, communism, or any other, but can also shirk the necessity to do so. One can push the rhetoric to the background if they so choose and evaluate on a more "pure" ethical perspective, or one of their choosing. Therein is where I believe the majority of the game's power comes from.

    All this being said. I wish the game were more polished in its technology and presentation, because I have a strong sense of its message and worth, but it is clouded and obstructed by jarring interactions.
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    [September 25, 2018 12:23:27 AM]
    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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    [September 24, 2018 12:03:53 AM]
    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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    GaryDoesThings's 1979 Revolution: Black Friday (PC)

    Current Status: Playing

    GameLog started on: Sunday 23 September, 2018

    GameLog closed on: Monday 5 November, 2018

    GaryDoesThings's opinion and rating for this game

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