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Redefining Fun

As publishers alter games after last week's tragedy, the industry has to redefine how to deliver excitement By Denise Harrison
The day after the WTC and Pentagon tragedies, Electronic Arts suspended gameplay of Majestic, an unusual role-play game in which you become enmeshed with made-up espionage and conspiracy. I have a friend who played Majestic. She told me that during her workday she would get phone calls from people saying they had important and confidential information to share, or pleading for help, or warning of danger. Even before these tragedies, she couldnt tell at the outset of these phone calls if it was someone calling from the game, or someone from work calling to schedule a meeting.

After September 11, there was no way to keep Majestic going without causing terrible confusion, and possible fright, among the tens of thousands of participants. Electronic Arts acted in a very responsible way, and they acted quickly, by pulling the game immediately.

Now, all game publishers and developers are having to take a look at their titles, the ones on the shelves and the ones in progress.

Reuters reported that Ubi Soft Entertainment is delaying release of Tom Clancys Rogue Spear: Black Thorn due to elements of terror attacks on NY and Washington. They plan to remove those portions before release, said Reuters.

They also reported that Microsoft Corp. has said it will erase the World Trade Center from the skyline of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2002 and that EA is revising the cover Red Alert 2, which shows the New York skyline burning.

And in an official statement, Digital Leisure said they are canceling their release of Crime Patrol.

?As America and its neighbors unite in the recovery from terrorist attacks that have shaken and changed our world, Digital Leisure has decided to cancel its upcoming release of Crime Patrol. The game places players in the role of a police officer stopping criminals - including drug dealers, bank robbers, car thieves, and in the final level, terrorists.

?Although the original laserdisc arcade game, Crime Patrol, was produced and released in the early 1990s by American Laser Games, the recent terrorist attacks have caused Digital Leisure executives put the games release on indefinite hold. ?In light of last weeks events, we feel that the release of Crime Patrol may serve as a sad reminder of the attacks on New York and Washington, said Elizabeth Foster, president of Digital Leisure. ?We have immediately switched our focus to producing Who Shot Johnny Rock?, a detective game set in the Roaring 20s of Chicago which we hope to release this fall.

Other game developers, too, are altering artwork, gameplay, and game themes.

Starting back in the early days of D&D, games have been blamed by some people for warping young minds. Ive even wondered myself from time to time what data, and how much of it, should flow into forming minds.

But this week, the changes game makers are implementing arent from fear that a media watch group is going to put on the pressure, or that their games are going to inspire some wacko to replicate their ideas. No, the game makers appear to be simply acting in good taste. Right now, theres nothing amusing about seeing buildings in flames. Right now, plane crashes are too much reminder of a bigger event, a much larger problem.

Fact is, what players have considered ?FUN in the past changed in a moments time. What was once considered exciting because of its outlandishness and impossibility, is no longer exiting, or impossible.

Blow-em-up games have been popular so long that its actually going to take some research to figure out what the next wave of FUN will be.

Ive noticed lately the cable movie stations are showing the glamourous WWII movies depicting heroism. A new HBO show about WWII, Band of Brothers, premiered as scheduled and aired several episodes so far. So, media depicting people fighting for a just cause, army vs. army, seem OK? Are we going to see a new wave of war games?

What do you think is going to be defined as fun in the next five years?

Tell me what you think on our user forum: http://wwug.com/forums/digital-game-developer/

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