For those who didn’t know this already, I am a gamer. I enjoy playing games of all sorts, including video games. In fact, I’ve even written more than 100 video game reviews for a great Web site called Christ Centered Gamer.
In any case, I recently read an article about one particular game called “Where Water Tastes Like Wine.” To briefly summarize, your character wanders a Depression-era America collecting stories. I found the concept to be an interesting one. I wanted to write the review, but another reviewer beat me to it. If you’d like to read more about the game, you can find it here.
In any case, apparently there is one achievement that can never be gained because the developer deliberately made it unobtainable. The final achievement, called “Where the Water Tastes Like Wine,” can’t be unlocked on Steam because, according to the developer, no such place like that exists in the U.S.
Um, excuse me? I can easily imagine the game designer sitting in his air conditioned office, sipping his $8 latte while working on his $3,000 gaming computer, occasionally checking his $1,000 cell phone for messages… and yet telling people that the American dream is dead.
We live in a world where girls are killed simply because they were born the wrong gender. Where people starve to death while tyrannical dictators let food donated by other nations rot on the docks. In some countries, women are stoned to death for the crime of talking to someone they aren’t related to. And you have the audacity to say that America sucks? Why do people turn a blind eye towards blatant crimes against humanity and instead focus on minutiae which, in the greater scheme of things, really don’t matter?
The main point I’m trying to make is that people often play games – or watch movies, or read books – as a form of escapism. They don’t want to be reminded of the real world, they want to escape it. They want to take their minds to a place where they can make a difference, where things do make sense. They do not want a reminder of the world they were trying to flee, even if but for a short time.
The very last thing they want is to be beaten in the head by propaganda trying to “wake them up.” This is not escapism – it’s a blatant attempt at brainwashing. And this attempt won’t go over well with the general audience. They will, for the most part, abandon the game or the book or whatnot to find something that isn’t so heavy-handed in its agenda. As a result, the only consumer of the media will probably be those that already agree with whatever cause the author is trying to forward in the first place.
As a further note, we could look at “Where Water Tastes Like Wine” as a cautionary tale. According to this article on Polygon, the game has sold fewer than 4,000 copies, and hasn’t even come close to making up the $140,000 spent on development. Even with the positive reviews it had gained, sales for the game just weren’t there. It makes me wonder if word got out about its political nature and it repelled some customers based on that. I know that, after reading the article about the impossible achievement and the reason behind it, it’s lost my sale.
I do know that there are some good examples of people trying to use their art to advance a cause – the early X-Men comics and the original Star Trek television program comes to mind. But neither of those really tried to browbeat their readers into accepting the messages.
Things have gotten so polarized in today’s political environment that my suggestion is to avoid the topic entirely. Once you are an established artist and have built up a reputation and a following, you might think about it… if you don’t mind alienating your fans. But if you’re just starting out, keep your politics and agenda to yourself.
I often tell people that, when you write, you need to know your audience. But first you need to attract one. You don’t want to frighten off the audience before you even have a chance to build it.
Until next time, keep on writing!