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  • Translator: Joseph Geni Reviewer: Morton Bast

  • When we think of games, there's all kinds of things.

  • Maybe you're ticked off, or maybe, you're looking forward to a new game.

  • You've been up too late playing a game.

  • All these things happen to me.

  • But when we think about games,

  • a lot of times we think about stuff like this:

  • first-person shooters, or the big, what we would call AAA games,

  • or maybe you're a Facebook game player.

  • This is one my partner and I worked on.

  • Maybe you play Facebook games, and that's what we're making right now.

  • This is a lighter form of game.

  • Maybe you think about the tragically boring board games

  • that hold us hostage in Thanksgiving situations.

  • This would be one of the tragically boring board games that you can figure out.

  • Or maybe you're in your living room,

  • playing with the Wii with the kids,

  • and there's this whole range of games, and that's very much what I think about.

  • I make my living from games, I've been lucky enough to do this

  • since I was 15, which also qualifies as I've never really had a real job.

  • But we think about games as fun, and that's completely reasonable,

  • but let's just think about this.

  • So this one here, this is the 1980 Olympics.

  • Now I don't know where you guys were,

  • but I was in my living room.

  • It was practically a religious event.

  • And this is when the Americans beat the Russians,

  • and this was -- yes, it was technically a game.

  • Hockey is a game.

  • But really, was this a game?

  • I mean, people cried.

  • I've never seen my mother cry like that at the end of Monopoly.

  • (Laughter)

  • And so this was an amazing experience.

  • Or, if anybody here is from Boston --

  • So when the Boston Red Sox won the World Series

  • after I believe, 351 years --

  • (Laughter)

  • when they won the World Series, it was amazing.

  • I happened to be living in Springfield at the time,

  • and the best part of it was,

  • you would close the women's door in the bathroom,

  • and I remember seeing "Go Sox," and I thought, really?

  • Or the houses, you'd come out, because every game,

  • well, I think almost every game, went into overtime, right?

  • So we'd be outside, and all the other lights are on in the whole block.

  • And kids -- the attendance was down in school,

  • kids weren't going to school, but it's OK, it's the Red Sox, right?

  • I mean, there's education, and then there's the Red Sox,

  • and we know where they're stacked.

  • So this was an amazing experience,

  • and again, yes, it was a game, but they didn't write newspaper articles,

  • people didn't say, "You know, really, I can die now, because the Red Sox won."

  • And many people did.

  • So games, it means something more to us.

  • It absolutely means something more.

  • So now, this is an abrupt transition here.

  • There was three years where I actually did have a real job, sort of.

  • I was the head of a college department teaching games,

  • so, again, it was sort of a real job,

  • and now I got to talk about making them as opposed to making them.

  • Part of the job of it, when you're a chair of a department,

  • is to eat, and I did that very well --

  • and so I'm out at a dinner with this guy called Zig Jackson.

  • So this is Zig in this photograph, this is also one of Zig's photographs.

  • He's a photographer.

  • And he goes all around the country taking pictures of himself,

  • and you can see here he's got Zig's Indian Reservation.

  • And this particular shot --

  • this is one of the more traditional shots.

  • This is a rain dancer.

  • And this is one of my favorite shots here.

  • So you can look at this, and maybe you've even seen things like this.

  • This is an expression of culture, right?

  • And this is actually from his Degradation series.

  • And what was most fascinating to me about this series

  • is just, look at that little boy there, can you imagine?

  • We can see that's a traditional Native American.

  • Now I just want to change that guy's race.

  • Just imagine if that's a black guy.

  • So, "Honey, come here, let's get you a picture with the black guy." Right?

  • Like, seriously, nobody would do this.

  • It baffles the mind.

  • And so Zig, being Indian, likewise it baffles his mind.

  • His favorite photograph --

  • my favorite photograph of his, which I don't have in here --

  • is Indian taking picture of white people taking pictures of Indians.

  • (Laughter)

  • So I happen to be at dinner with this photographer,

  • and he was talking with another photographer

  • about a shooting that had occurred,

  • and it was on an Indian Reservation.

  • He'd taken his camera up there to photograph it,

  • but when he got there, he discovered he couldn't do it.

  • He just couldn't capture the picture.

  • And so they were talking back and forth about this question.

  • Do you take the picture or not?

  • And that was fascinating to me as a game designer,

  • because it never occurs to me,

  • should I make the game about this difficult topic or not?

  • Because we just make things that are fun

  • or will make you feel fear, that visceral excitement.

  • But every other medium does it.

  • So this is my kid.

  • This is Maezza, and when she was seven years old,

  • she came home from school one day,

  • and like I do every single day, I asked her, "What did you do today?"

  • So she said, "We talked about the Middle Passage."

  • Now, this was a big moment. Maezza's dad is black,

  • and I knew this day was coming.

  • I wasn't expecting it at seven, I don't know why, but I wasn't.

  • Anyways, so I asked her, "How do you feel about that?"

  • So she proceeded to tell me,

  • and so any of you who are parents will recognize the bingo buzzwords here.

  • "The ships start in England, they come down from England,

  • they go to Africa, they go across the ocean --

  • that's the Middle Passage part --

  • they come to America, where the slaves are sold," she's telling me.

  • But Abraham Lincoln was elected president,

  • and then he passed the Emancipation Proclamation,

  • and now they're free.

  • Pause for about 10 seconds.

  • "Can I play a game, Mommy?"

  • And I thought, that's it? And so, you know,

  • this is the Middle Passage, this is an incredibly significant event,

  • and she's treating it like, basically some black people went on a cruise,

  • this is more or less how it sounds to her.

  • (Laughter)

  • And so, to me, I wanted more value in this,

  • so when she asked if she could play a game, I said, "Yes."

  • (Laughter)

  • And so I happened to have all of these little pieces.

  • I'm a game designer, so I have this stuff sitting around my house.

  • I said, "Yeah, you can play a game," and I give her a bunch of these,

  • and I tell her to paint them in different families.

  • These are pictures of Maezza when she was --

  • God, it still chokes me up seeing these.

  • So she's painting her little families.

  • So then I grab a bunch of them and I put them on a boat.

  • This was the boat, it was made quickly, obviously.

  • And so the basic gist of it is, I grabbed a bunch of families,

  • and she's like, "Mommy, but you forgot the pink baby

  • and you forgot the blue daddy

  • and you forgot all these other things."

  • And she says, "They want to go."

  • And I said, "Honey, no, they don't want to go.

  • This is the Middle Passage, Nobody wants to go on the Middle Passage."

  • So she gave me a look that only a daughter of a game designer would give a mother,

  • and as we're going across the ocean, following these rules,

  • she realizes that she's rolling pretty high,

  • and she says to me, "We're not going to make it."

  • And she realizes, we don't have enough food,

  • and so she asks what to do,

  • and I say -- remember, she's seven --

  • "We can either put some people in the water

  • or we can hope that they don't get sick

  • and we make it to the other side."

  • Just the look on her face came over --

  • now mind you this is after a month of --

  • this is Black History Month, right?

  • After a month, she says to me, "Did this really happen?"

  • And I said, "Yes." And so she said --

  • this is her brother and sister --

  • "If I came out of the woods, Avalon and Donovan might be gone."

  • "Yes."

  • "But I'd get to see them in America."

  • "No."

  • "But what if I saw them? Couldn't we stay together?"

  • "So Daddy could be gone."

  • "Yes."

  • She was fascinated by this, and she started to cry,

  • I started to cry, her father started to cry, and now we're all crying.

  • He didn't expect to come home from work to the Middle Passage, but there it goes.

  • And so, we made this game, and she got it.

  • She got it because she spent time with these people.

  • It wasn't abstract stuff in a brochure or in a movie.

  • And so it was just an incredibly powerful experience.

  • This is the game, which I've ended up calling "The New World,"

  • because I like the phrase.

  • I don't think the New World felt too new worldly exciting

  • to the people who were brought over on slave ships.

  • But when this happened, I saw the whole planet; I was so excited.

  • I'd been making games for 20-some years,

  • and then I decided to do it again.

  • My history is Irish.

  • So this is a game called "Síochán Leat." It's "peace be with you."

  • It's the entire history of my family in a single game.

  • I made another game called "Train."

  • I was making a series of six games that covered difficult topics,

  • and if you're going to cover a difficult topic, this is one you need to cover,

  • and I'll let you figure out what that's about on your own.

  • And I also made a game about the Trail of Tears.

  • This is a game with 50,000 individual pieces.

  • I was crazy when I decided to start it, but I'm in the middle of it now.

  • It's the same thing.

  • I'm hoping that I'll teach culture through these games.

  • And the one I'm working on right now, which is --

  • because I'm right in the middle of it,

  • and these for some reason choke me up like crazy --

  • is a game called "Mexican Kitchen Workers."

  • And originally, it was a math problem, more or less.

  • Here's the economics of illegal immigration.

  • And the more I learned about Mexican culture --

  • my partner is Mexicanthe more I learned that,

  • you know, for all of us, food is a basic need,

  • and it is obviously with Mexicans, too, but it's much more than that.

  • It's an expression of love. It's an expression of --

  • God, I'm totally choking up way more than I thought.

  • I'll look away from the picture.

  • It's an expression of beauty, it's how they say they love you.

  • It's how they say they care,

  • and you can't hear somebody talk about their Mexican grandmother

  • without saying "food" in the first sentence.

  • And so to me, this beautiful culture,

  • this beautiful expression is something that I want to capture through games.

  • And so games, for a change, it changes how we see topics,

  • it changes our perceptions about those people in topics,

  • and it changes ourselves.

  • We change as people through games,

  • because we're involved, and we're playing,

  • and we're learning as we do so.

  • Thank you.

Translator: Joseph Geni Reviewer: Morton Bast

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【TED】Brenda Romero: Gaming for understanding (Brenda Romero: Gaming for understanding)

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    Zenn posted on 2017/06/10
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