Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Religion and Politics in a Star Trek MMORPG +

Originally Posted by Jaedon Rivers:
Star Trek has always been about real world issues, yes, but it's always presented them with a light touch, never obviously being about something so relevant, or being direct about it, and always roping you in then making you think afterwards. It's never been in your face.
Hmm. I don't know about that -- I mean, TOS: "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" was about as subtle as being smacked on the head with a sledgehammer....

"Message!" *WHAM* "Here's the message!" *WHAM* *WHAM* "Did you get the message!?" *WHAM*

It's that kind of thing that makes me doubt claims that real-world issues would consistently be dramatized in a fair and objective way. Suppose you're a writer: when everyone around you thinks the same way on some real-world issue (shades of Pauline Kael), it can be extremely difficult to even imagine that someone who holds a different opinion may be a reasonable person whose beliefs, even if different from your own, deserve respect. The next thing you know, you're mimicking Aaron Sorkin's awful example of turning your characters into mere mouthpieces for sermonizing tirades.

Of course I can't say that the folks chosen to develop a Star Trek MMORPG would do this. For that matter, it's possible that TV (and game) writers have gotten more subtle and sophisticated in their political expression in the forty years have have passed since the original Star Trek. All I can say is that IMO the seductive easiness with which this soapboxing can happen is a valid reason to minimize the opportunities for it.

That doesn't mean no computer game should ever fictionalize any current topic on which people disagree. For games not based on the discussion of such topics, it just means making these fictionalization events rare enough that they have impact when you do them, and fair enough that they don't needlessly alienate paying customers.

The primary function of an entertainment product is to entertain. If it can open minds as well, fine, but if it doesn't entertain, then it fails to achieve its business purpose. Do that often enough and you get cancelled.

And a cancelled product serves no one.