Prison Tycoon: the Broken Promise of Simulation

Apr 23, 14 Prison Tycoon: the Broken Promise of Simulation

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This article is part 1 of a 2-part series on prison management games, and the controversies surrounding them. You can read the introductory remarks for the series here.   Apparently, Prison Tycoon isn’t much fun to play. “Apparently”, because even though I’ve played it myself, I wasn’t seeking entertainment. In fact,...

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Prison Sims: Birth of a Controversy

Apr 16, 14 Prison Sims: Birth of a Controversy

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N.B. This post is an introduction to an upcoming two-part series on prison management games, and the controversies surrounding them.      It’s a fair question to ask: are prison management games any less controversial than your average violent video game? Or any opus from the Grand Theft Auto family, for that...

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The Limits of Playing the Powerless and the Doomed in Videogames

Apr 10, 12 The Limits of Playing the Powerless and the Doomed in Videogames

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In an unusually redemptive reading of the widely disparaged Atari VCS game E.T. (1982), Ian Bogost observes that the game perfectly (though perhaps not intentionally) captured the essence of Spielberg’s hit movie. “It was a film about alienation, not about aliens,” Bogost writes in How to Do Things with Videogames....

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Documentary Evidence and Playable Space in Drama in the Delta

Jul 26, 11 Documentary Evidence and Playable Space in Drama in the Delta

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Drama in the Delta is an immersive role-playing videogame under development at the University of California, San Diego. The historical backdrop to Drama in the Delta could not be more compelling. Funded by the NEH’s Office of Digital Humanities, Drama in the Delta takes the player to two Japanese American internment camps...

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The Virtual Prisons of Tropico

Mar 15, 11 The Virtual Prisons of Tropico

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I argued in my last post on Play the Past that the simulation game Prison Tycoon can only imagine an inwardly-directed, self-contained prison world—a world we know to be at odds with prisons in the real world. In the comments to that post, Peter Christiansen suggested comparing Prison Tycoon with Tropico, another PC game in...

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