Sweden Is Using Video Games To Spread Peace, Love, And Democracy
Video games are sort of a staple of the Swedish economy. A number of incredibly successful developers make their home there, and its most successful export in history is the immensely popular Battlefield franchise. With that knowledge in mind, perhaps it isn't terribly surprising that the Swedish government is well aware of the games industry; more so than most governments in the world.
That also means they're aware of its faults.
Although gaming has made great strides towards acceptance in mainstream culture, it still has a bit of an image problem - and a rather serious one, at that. For one, the industry is still largely male-dominated, in spite of many attempts by women to break in. There's also the unfortunate fact that - though we're starting to see more meaningful, nonviolent titles - gaming's got something of a juvenile preoccupation with violence in all its forms.
Sweden seeks to change that. A joint team from VisitSweden, the Swedish Institute and Business Sweden have gathered together in order to take on the elephant in the room that is violence, competition, and gender disparity in gaming. In the process, they're hoping bring both democracy and creativity to nations all across the world.
They've called this initiative "Democreativity." Yeah, I know; it's a bit of a cheesy name. I guess that makes it more memorable or something?
Anyway, the Democreativity taskforce sent out a call for suggestions from all around the world on the topic of "the most unlikely game ever made," which the team will then develop. Ultimately, they're looking to create a wholly unique experience, a game where there are no winners and losers; a title in which collaboration and exploratiion are the ultimate end goals. So far, more than five hundred people from one hundred twenty six countries have submitted their ideas.
The suggestions were...actually a little surprising, and they paint a picture of exactly the sort of game the industry could use more of. It will be a title with no clear winner or loser, a game in which violence doesn't exist in any form, a narrative with undefined and indefinable characters; an experience where competition takes a front seat to cooperation. Basically, people want more games like Journey.
"We have made a comparison between their suggestions and the current top 100 best-selling games, and even though people haven't explicitly written it, the suggestions are quite far from games like Grand Theft Auto or Battlefield," explained Democreativity spokesperson Ellinor Irving to The Independent. "Together with an advisory board and representation from the games industry, we boiled down the suggestions to two trends. opponent but to collaborate, make alliances, and explore new areas."
"And though we thought we'd get lots of suggestions about greater female representation, it didn't seem important to gamers. It seems like they are leapfrogging the gender issue altogether and instead want to see characters that are not people at all but undefined objects."
Irving herself seems a little shocked at Democreativity's success, noting that it originally just started as a pilot project to demonstrate Sweden's long history of democracy and openness. If something good comes out of this - a game that's actually marketable - Democreativity might find itself become far more than a simple side project for the government. It could well become a full-blown development project.
With the suggestion phase at an end, several games based on player submissions are being developed in collaboration with a team at a Swedish university. The initial development efforts should be ready for the public eye by May or June. The team has also made the brief public on the project website, where you can still submit your own game if you feel so inclined. Those of you interested in seeing what people came up with can check out a full suggestion list here.
Everything about Democreativity is fascinating to me (except the name. I still can't get past that). That the team behind the initiative is challenging the status quo of gaming is admirable; the means by which they're doing it - along with the suggestions they've received - is positively brilliant. When June rules around, I'll definitely be keeping an ear to the ground for news on the project - and you should too.