We were lucky to have Peter Brinson from the USC Interactive Media Division to join us for our speaker series today. Serious games have a reputation of being just that - serious, but Peter expressed the need, and benefit, of finding levity in such games.
Peter's background as a filmmaker was apparent in his approach to game-making, as was his interest in incorporating interaction and play into his filmmaking. Check out http://noanimalswerehurt.peterbrinson.com and participate yourself. But Peter's recent focus has been in documentary video games, where he has found the opportunity to explore narrative and character identity in unique ways.
Most recently, Peter created The Cat and the Coup, a puzzle game about the CIA-sponsored ousting of the Prime Minister of Iran. As a political science-trained game enthusiast, I was blown away by the game's ability to incorporate an unpleasant historical moment into a truly beautiful space that I wanted to explore. Many of us have become so used to ignoring, or being uncomfortable or strictly uninterested in serious topics, but the mastery of Peter's work is the ability to bring levity and beauty to a serious issue, without taking away from its gravity. Maybe the key to "loosening up" serious games is to actually take pleasure in the topic - which The Cat and the Coup does to great effect.