Ian Bogost has an interesting little post up on his Water Cooler Games about 'skinning games' - wrapping a pretty standard game mechanic in a fresh new wrapping, in this case wrapping standard-issue combat games in the covering of a serious political topic, an oil crisis 20 years in the future. Frontlines: Fuel of Crisis is a regular game in the guise of a 'serious game;' certainly not the first, but it's interesting to see exactly where they put the emphasis:
The major features of Frontlines, according to the website, are: Frontline System - a "focused combat" system that "inherently promotes teamwork"; an Open World Environment (you already know what that means); Next-Gen Firepower (w00t!); Customisable Soldiers ("character choices, weapon load-out, and role specialisation"); and Advanced Team Play (everyone needs multiplayer). Anything here deal with peak oil? Not so much. I do find myself wondering, though, where all the fuel for so many motorised war vehicles comes from? Maybe the game will clarify that with an in-world fiction. Then again, maybe it won't.
I suppose fully integrating the concept of an oil crisis wouldn't make the game so fun ('Sorry, soldier, you're over your fuel limit for the week and will have to stay back at base playing tiddlywinks'), on the other hand - why bother with the premise at all? The mainstream may turn their noses up at the idea of 'serious games,' but there has to be some incentive for companies to at least try and pretend they're covering some serious topics in a meaningful (uh, in name at least) manner.
Skinning Politics [Water Cooler Games]