I’ve been playing video games for most of my life. In that time, I’ve played many games that felt like a long, tedious grind. It’s not just about getting to the end of a level and beating the final boss. Some games are bigger, broader, and more complex. A lot of modern games are like that these days. They’re not something you can beat over the span of an afternoon or over a weekend.
As much a grind they are, it’s still so satisfying when you finally win. That’s a feeling that even casual gamers can appreciate. That’s also how I felt when I recently accomplished something amazing in a game I’ve been playing for years now, Marvel Strike Force. I’ve mentioned before that I started posting captured videos of me playing this game on my YouTube Channel, Jack’s World. Since then, I’ve refined that craft.
As a result, I’ve put together a lengthy playlist of me navigating the Dark Dimension IV levels of the game. If you’re at all familiar with Marvel Strike Force, you know it as one of the toughest runs of the game. I already completed the first run. Now, I’ve completed the timed run and it was quite a harrowing experience. I made sure to capture that experience from start to finish.
Again, it was a hell of a grind, but it was incredibly satisfying when I finished it. Enjoy!
The following is a video for my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. It’s both a tribute and an exploration of Final Fantasy X, the first video game I played that was a genuinely emotional experience. Having played video games all my life, there aren’t many games that have had such a profound impact on me. This is one of them and I still feel the extent of that impact today.
The past few years have been uneventful in this annual celebration of this beloved sci-fi series. This year is very different. Not only did we get confirmation of a remastered version of the original trilogy that I spent so many hours lost in, Bioware announced another game is officially in the works!
Not much is known about the next installment in BioWare’s epic space opera, but the studio says a team of veterans at the company is working on it. Do not expect the game to come out anytime soon as BioWare general manager Casey Hudson noted in a blog post that the game is in “early stages” of development and the studio cannot share any additional details at this time.
As a fan of all things “Mass Effect,” I couldn’t be more excited. This year has sucked on so many levels. This announcement helps make it feel just a bit less awful.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must start calibrating myself for the arrival of this game.
Let’s face it. Most kids aren’t that eager to learn about the stuff that their teachers, parents, and school administrators want them to learn about. They’re not interested in knowing the skills that will make them healthy, productive, tax-paying consumers who will keep society running. They’re interested in the skills that will make them popular and/or get them laid.
Instead, I want to focus on something that most kids are eager to enjoy and how some people are using that to improve their understanding of sex, sexuality, and relationship. What could kids possibly excite kids that much to learn about something that they would rather not learn from the same gym teacher that makes them run laps in winter?
The answer is more obvious than you think. It’s video games. Admit it, that almost makes too much sense.
Kids might not be able to agree whether Superman could beat the Hulk, which he totally could, but they agree that video games are awesome. So if kids love video games so much, why not use that love to teach them valuable lessons about sex, relationships, and consent?
When it comes to teaching kids about sex, though, I wouldn’t expect Edward James Olmos to star in a movie about that. That doesn’t mean the concept is entirely flawed. Teaching kids about sex is hard enough. Teaching them in a way they’ll remember and take seriously might be beyond the power of Hollywood.
That still doesn’t stop some from trying. In a story by Kimberly Lawson at Vice, an associate professor of medicine at Yale University has helped create a game called PlayForward: Elm City Stories. It’s a fairly straightforward, two-dimensional role playing game that is less about killing aliens or Nazis and more about guiding players through a narrative, showing how their decisions affect them along the way.
That’s not quite as radical as it sounds. Role-playing games represent a large chunk of the video game industry. Major game franchises like “Mass Effect” and “Final Fantasy” are built around the idea of having players make choices and face repercussions of those choices. Take away the aliens and the monsters, though, and you’ve got a solid basis for understanding real life choices.
PlayForward: Elm City Stories plays less like Dungeons & Dragons and more like the classic board game, Life. In it, you play as avatar in a fictional, but fairly realistic city where you have to navigate a variety of activities and make choices along the way.
Some of those activities involve who you your friends are. Some involve going to certain events and parties. Some even involve whether or not to make out with a cute girl. It may sound mundane, but like most RPGs, the appeal is diving into the world of the character and leading them through it. Here’s how Vice describes the experience.
Players have to make important, life-changing decisions, including whether or not they should go upstairs to make out with someone, if they should use a condom or not during sex, and whether they should accept pills found in someone’s grandmother’s medicine cabinet. At any point, they can fast-forward to the epilogue to see what their character’s life looks like at 30, based on the decisions they’ve made.
Through that experience, players learn about more than just saying no to the guy on the street corner offering a free hit of crack. They experience both the short-term and long-term impacts of their decisions. Given the notoriously short attention spans and limited foresight of kids, that kind of insight in indispensable when teaching them about sex and relationships.
It’s no “Super Mario Brothers,” but the lessons it conveys are more valuable than any princess. It puts the players in a position to choose the right and wrong path. It shows them just how right and wrong those paths can be in the long run for their character and themselves, by default.
Beyond just consequences, the game gives players a chance to explore situations involving intimacy, consent, and relationships. Their choices help forge the relationships they have throughout the game. To get a better outcome, they actually need a better understanding of intimacy and consent. The fact that gives them tools to apply those lessons in the real world just a pleasant side-effect.
Just punishing the Harvey Weinsteins of the world isn’t enough, though. We need to teach the emerging generation that there’s a time and a place to show a beautiful woman your genitals. Knowing those circumstances will be the difference between having a great sex life and being sued into oblivion.
Kids aren’t going to learn those skills through lectures, after school specials, and cute puppets. Some of the most effective learning methods involve active engagement with real activities that offer real rewards. In that sense, video games are the perfect medium for that kind of teaching.
While I doubt that PlayForward: Elm City Stories will win any game of the year awards, it sets an important precedent that is worth building upon. Saving princesses and shooting killer aliens is still fun, but learning about relationships, consent, and sex will take a player much further in life.