when is it a game

by ibull

i have some ideas about the disposition a person would require in order to conceive of prison as a game space.

i am uncomfortable with games that benefit from the seemingly game-like qualities of systematically broken systems. maybe this is a reflection of my education about the american legal system and private, for-profit prison facilities that plague People of Color across the United States.

(my source)

in a way that television cannot, games have (and often exercise) the power to situate systems in a kind of permanence that reflect the insufficient nature of the legal system itself. there is no room for the player to interject into the code and change the way a system works.

what does it mean to “play” within the prison industrial complex?

you might think it is only about learning how to survive in that space—to learn how to experience “fun” there. but actually it means to render and codify this space in a way that distorts both the reality of how the system works, and the realities that people experience while incarcerated.

i realize that the aforementioned game is still in development. i realize that it is predicated on the popularity of television shows—really, an entire genre prolific in film and on television—that were also about life within the prison industrial complex. i am not saying that there isn’t also something uncomfortable with those representations of criminality. i recognize that passive entertainment can also be fun, and that this team of designers wouldn’t be the first to profiteer off of media on this topic. doesn’t mean it’s okay or that we can’t change the way we think about these issues.

many people are already comfortable with condemning “criminals” by the very nature of their categorization. there also aren’t many videogames out there that reward players for deviating from the expectations of a categorical role.

if Prisonscape wants us to think differently about the role of a criminal, okay—but it doesn’t look like that idea is really part of the Kickstarter pitch.