wherein the author explores the notion of games as satire.
Not to get all anal-retentive and semantic and shit, but let’s start with a couple definitions:
- Wikipedia: “The purpose of satire is not primarily humour but criticism of an event, an individual or a group in a clever manner.”
- YourDictionary (among others): “A literary work in which human vice or folly is attacked through irony, derision, or wit.”
Further proving you should never listen to Wikipedia.
What’s the difference? Well, the point of satire is to (as the second definition gets at) criticize an aspect of society to encourage positive social change, in a funny way (because, really, otherwise who would pay attention?).
If you’re just making fun of something with no larger purpose, it’s parody (well, or just straight up fucking mockery).
Now, I loves me some satire. Stephen Colbert is my personal hero (er, men know what men like).
So, SCMRPG! (getting back on topic sloooooowly… but not just yet) has been noted as having satirical elements (making fun of violent games like Doom). Before I get to that, lets look how other games have (not) been satire.
Grand Theft Auto (3 in particular), and The Sims (the first installment), both at first glance, seem capable of being described as satires of certain characteristics of American culture. GTA, of violence, and The Sims, of consumerism.
But they’re not. You spend every waking moment of those games pursuing the acts they each would seemingly claim to be satirizing. Every single asset in them is dedicated to rewarding those acts.
Now imagine if Jonathan Swift, instead of writing “A Modest Proposal” to point out the mistreatment of the Irish poor under English landlords (by suggesting the Irish sell their babies for food), had actually written a 1000-page cookbook with recipes for baby. For EATING baby.
That would *not* be satire (just kinda gross).
SCMRPG! is certainly closer to satire than either GTA or The Sims. The combat is unfun by design, so even though it has many of the same aspects of violent games, they’re not rewarded in the same way. The cute & humorous art style, characters, & sound effects do tend to fall into the glorification over satirization category, but in a more minor fashion – so it has some potential as satire.
If we really consider SCMRPG! as trying to say something about violence in games (either that it’s bad, or more likely, should be questioned), then it would definitely be satire. However, the point behind the other major theme is that violent games and other media really had no part to play in why Klebold and Harris did what they did. So if it was satire, the game would directly contradict itself (in a making-my-brain-explode kind of way). Should violent games be taken under greater consideration, or were they the straw man the community misguidedly blamed? So I would have to say those elements of SCMRPG! are really parody, not satire. Either way, they still serve as a distraction to the main point (in the amount they are focused on in the second half of the game).
But, in the end, maybe this is a little bit like Alannis Morrisette irony (as in, nobody will ever care about the difference anyway). The themes to be found in SCMRPG! are muddled perhaps for one important reason: Ledonne may have just not cared. The point of the game seems to have just been to get people thinking about these issues, and on that note it succeeds emphatically. If you haven’t played it, you should, for the very least that it will make you think (about more than just how to beat it). And how many games can you say that of?