Simulating Survival Feb24

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Simulating Survival

Wednesday, Feb 24. 1:30-2:30. Room 604,UBC Asian Centre. Free event.

Sponsored by the Centre for Japanese Research,  this talk by Ben Whaley asks the question of whether a video game might help us better understand the trauma of another through an analysis of the PlayStation 2 game Zettaizetsumei Toshi (2002, Disaster Report, 2003). In the game, players must use limited resources to escape from an earthquake- and tsunami-stricken Japanese city, while rescuing other survivors and crafting tools for survival. Ian Bogost (2011) argues that if video games are to foster empathy for real-world situations, then players should be cast as the “downtrodden.” I introduce the idea of “limited engagement” or a form of operationalized weakness in which the game design intentionally subtracts in-game skills and items in order to communicate a sense of vulnerability and victimhood to the player. Drawing on a personal interview with the game’s creator, this talk discusses the real-world survival skills and techniques the game series is credited with teaching Japanese players. I conclude by discussing disaster photography within the video game and how its presence within a larger interactive framework might prompt a stronger empathetic engagement with representational media.