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Prison Architect to tackle complex social issues

Tuesday, 10th July 2012 08:49 GMT By Stace Harman

Introversion’s Chris Delay, the man behind management sim Prison Architect, has told Eurogamer that the title will deal with “a lot of the issues that occur in prisons,” but that he’s currently undecided whether its themes will encompass sexual assault.

Chris Delay of UK indie Introversion has expressed the team’s intention to tackle complex social issues with its upcoming management sim, Prison Architect.

“We didn’t want to pick a tough topic like prisons and just make something completely cursory and surface level stupid,” Delay told Eurogamer.

“We wanted to do it properly. It is a game and there are concessions to it being a game. We’re not out to make an experience that’s utterly horrific to play. We’re not aiming to make the player deeply uncomfortable.”

This balancing act means that while topics such as violence, verbal bullying and trading in contraband will certainly feature in the game, the decision of whether to include any reference to sexual assault inside the prison is yet to be taken.

“I will tell you we don’t have that occurring anywhere in the game currently,” Delay stated, then added: “It might be a step too far. It might be too much. But that said, I don’t know. I haven’t made the final decision on that.”

Despite the recent furore caused by the perceived threat of sexual assault in Crystal Dynamics’ E3 Tomb Raider showing, Delay believes that games can tackle controversial real-world themes and so racism and racial tension will feature in Prison Architect.

“Race is in the game and will be [a part of] the game,” Delay confirmed. “Race is going to be a causal factor in a lot of other things. The most obvious one is gang alignment. A lot of gangs are founded on racial terms. It’s one particular race in one particular gang.

“It’ll be interesting to see what the response is to that. We’re treading so far into a zone that’s difficult to deal with without offending people.”

Delay went on to explain that sensitive issues shouldn’t be avoided by video games, but conceded that they must be dealt with in the right way.

“There’s no reason why games can’t deal with much more serious topics,” Delay said. “It’s much harder. I’m very conscious of the fact you can’t just trivially deal with issues like rape or race. You have to consider what it is you want to put in. It just makes it a lot harder.”

“They’re very difficult questions that will probably only be resolved by extremely talented writers getting involved and figuring out how to meld that craft with video games.”

Prison Architect is currently in development by Introversion, the developer responsible for Defcon, Uplink and Darwinia. The game is intended to launch later this year for PC.

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20 Comments

  1. roadkill

    Are you kidding me? If you’re going to do this go all the way man! Have some f**king b***z!

    #1 2 years ago
  2. sh4dow

    At first, I felt it sounded interesting but then… “We’re not aiming to make the player deeply uncomfortable.”

    A game tackling such an issue but then not daring to show the harsh reality… I think that’s worse than just some mindless FPS.
    But I sure hope that gamers will at least be confronted with “consequences” that will make it hard to laugh at e.g. some guy getting beaten up repeatedly.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. DSB

    @1,2 What a load of nonsense. There are lots of games that feature prisons but don’t feature rape.

    I’m sure you can find that in other places.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. roadkill

    @3 But this game features a prison as it’s main character. It should have all the elements of a real prison. If I want my prisoners to rape each other, I should be able to make it happen. If I want them to kill each other, I should be able to make it happen. And so on.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. DSB

    @4 So you don’t want an actual prison, you want a serbian rape prison with you as the director.

    I still don’t see why anyone would cater to that.

    Rape is always going to be a factor when you keep men close together with no female contact, but as anyone who’s actually been to prison will tell you, it’s vastly exagerated for shock effect in fiction.

    I had a friend who went to prison in Portugal (which felt like a banana republic when I visited it) and he told me he was basically trembling every time he had to take a shower. Until one of the other inmates walked up to him and told him it was mostly just a myth, and that he should watch less TV.

    Unless it’s an actual factor in the gameplay, I don’t see the point. Is the psyche of these inmates accurately simulated? In that case, rape would be a factor. Otherwise it’s just another form of assault, and you already have physical violence and death, so what’s the point, aside from perverse gratification?

    #5 2 years ago
  6. Puggy

    Aw not again. didn’t we have that rape scene thing with Tomb Raider some weeks ago?

    You see, every time when I read “gay love” or “rape scene” in a news post about a game, I somehow have to think of cheap way to market your game.

    I have to agree with DSB though, as in where is the fascination of having your people rape each other? It does not add any kind of gameplay element in my eyes, and if it is just about seeing men being forced into sex, I am sure there are other sources to satisfy that need.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. The_Red

    Hopefully in the near future journalists stop being soccer-moms and hate groups and start supporting games that try to tackle such darker themes. Whether they are in blockbuster big budget titles like Tomb Raider or small indie gems like Prison Architect.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. YoungZer0

    @7: Yep. I’m very disappointed to see that there doesn’t seem to be even one article written about Spec Ops: The Line. That’s probably the most important game of the year and no one is writing about it.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. The_Red

    @8
    I’ve heard really good things about it but hasn’t had the chance to try it. It’s indeed disappointing. When a super popular title like TR even attempts to suggest a disturbing but real thing, it’s attacked from all sides and then when a game fully touches on darker subjects with full care (LA Noire and hopefully Spec Ops The Line) nobody pays attention.

    They say gamers have to grow up and while that is definitely true, I also think that the journalists have to grow up to and stop doing things that belong to Fox News.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. DSB

    Whether those games are truly profound or not is still highly disputed.

    It’s every bit as nonsensical to critisize a game for not including rape as the opposite. Obviously he isn’t afraid to be controversial, he just doesn’t see rape as an obvious improvement to the game.

    So what does railing against that make you, MSNBC?

    I can’t speak for Spec Ops, but what passes for profound in games is generally a hell of a lot less than in any other medium. Something like Lolita was written in 1958, and Eyes Without a Face is from 1960. Maybe it just takes a century.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. YoungZer0

    @9: Oh it’s good. Really good. I didn’t think it would be that good, but it is. It actually dares so many things. Features so many dark topics, no game would even dare to touch. And no fucking reaction from gaming journalists. That disappoints me.

    Recently i had a conversation with the father of my girlfriend about the game. He isn’t really a gaming person, but i really enjoy talking with him about it. He’s always interested in hearing new stuff. So I told him everything about it and that was the first time he would actually not question anything about a game, he immediately liked what he heard. Suddenly we had a conversation about the nature of a soldier and his role in our time for 4 hours straight.

    That’s what i wanted for the community, but it didn’t happen.

    And yes, it totally agree with you. I don’t understand where this urge from gaming journalists comes to simply protest everything new. Why write a huge-ass article about rape in a game, that’s not even done so we don’t even know if it actually features rape? Gaming Journalists should be the pioneers of the gaming world, pushing developers forward, asking tough questions. But instead we get complains about everything new, before its even out.

    I would’ve loved to see the following conversation:

    Developer: “Yeah, our game will probably feature an attempted rape scene.”

    Journalist: “How are you going to pull that off? That’s probably going to be really difficult.”

    But instead we had this:

    Developer: “Yeah, our game will probably feature an attempted rape scene.”

    Journalist: “Oh, you shouldn’t do that.”

    But if we’re being honest, the problem isn’t just limited to game journalists, but journalists in general. They stopped asking questions a long time ago.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. YoungZer0

    @10: Give it a shot. I don’t think you’ll regret it. The gameplay doesn’t change, but the tone switches very quick. You gotta separate the game from the movie Apocalypse Now though. I know that bothers you a lot.

    But it would only be fair, because right around the end it makes a 180 and tackles a different subject. What i love about the game is the progression. Your characters change. Not just the look, but the voice and the behaviour. The tone of the game changes from the typical gung-ho macho-bullshit to something that feels very real and mature. No demo would be able to show that off. The little choices you can make, have no real impact on the story of the game, but they had an impact on me.

    At the end, it’s just exhaustion, yelling, hatred and swearing. I’ve never seen a game pull it off this well.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. DSB

    @12 That’s just not how I look at games.

    Whether it’s a partial ripoff or a total ripoff, it’s still a ripoff. Unless you’re able to put that to use in outdoing the original, it’s going to be disappointing.

    I’m not there to accomodate the designer, he’s there to accomodate me. Saying that a game is alright “if I do X” to accomodate it isn’t a recommendation. If you choose to overlook shortcomings, I’m sure anything becomes significantly better. Normally I try not to do that.

    I think Bioshock is the only one that has really put a spell on me in spite of some pretty mediocre mechanics.

    I might try out Spec Ops down the road, but I’m still not hot on it.

    http://www.edge-online.com/reviews/spec-ops-line-review

    The points expressed in that review are pretty worrying to me.

    “By its final minutes, Walker himself has grown from chisel-jawed videogame lunk to something approaching a character, even if he’s not one you necessarily like. He becomes a traumatised, maniacal, murderous wreck, and in this transformation is a wry criticism: this is what any shooter protagonist should look like after the amount of death and destruction they routinely face.

    It would also be an overstatement to call it profound: in any other medium such themes would hardly be revelatory, and although The Line is a thoughtful and well-intentioned game, the level of its writing is carefully engineered to be accessible to those expecting a brainless bullet exchange. Even so, it is brazen in its critique, and a rarity besides. It may not be subtle, but it engages with problems that the bellicose ilk of Modern Warfare and Medal Of Honor have yet to acknowledge.”

    For this guy it’s obviously just another gimmick.

    #13 2 years ago
  14. Puggy

    Hm, I still do not see how rape would push the developer further. I mean there are rape games out there, mostly in japan, and those games hardly helped in developing any kind of new Technology or gameplay element to my knowledge.

    The only thing the topic does is create buzz about the game and clicks for the Media sites that write about it. And don’t say it ain’t true, since you are reading this, meaning you now know about the game and clicked the link to read more.

    #14 2 years ago
  15. Ireland Michael

    I think some people in this thread might have some deeply repressed sexual desires that they’re only now bringing to the fore.

    #15 2 years ago
  16. YoungZer0

    “Whether it’s a partial ripoff or a total ripoff, it’s still a ripoff. Unless you’re able to put that to use in outdoing the original, it’s going to be disappointing.”

    I don’t think that at all. After all Apocalypse Now is also based on the book Heart of Darkness. The game may tackle subjects the film or book might not have. It is inspired by the book/film, its not a copy of it. They can exist equally on the same level.

    “If you choose to overlook shortcomings, I’m sure anything becomes significantly better. Normally I try not to do that.”

    But we all do that, every day, even if we think we do not. We overlook shortcomings, because the shortcomings probably aren’t important to us. We might not even see the shortcomings. I gladly sacrifice gameplay in trade for a great narrative.

    I’ve yet to understand what people love about Bioshock. I mean if it weren’t for the “A slave obeys” scene that game wouldn’t be even on my radar. I couldn’t overlook the pretentious and boring dialog/monologue and the unsatisyfing gameplay. Wasn’t impressed by Rapture at all and the cheap jump scares certainly didn’t help.

    #16 2 years ago
  17. DSB

    @16 “I don’t think that at all. After all Apocalypse Now is also based on the book Heart of Darkness. The game may tackle subjects the film or book might not have. It is inspired by the book/film, its not a copy of it. They can exist equally on the same level.”

    But that only serves to make The Line a copy of a copy. That just makes it harder to ignore. They’ve chosen to copy a great book that was made into a legendary movie, so they’ll have to make a truly mindblowing game to actually justify that.

    For that, it was just a bad idea from the beginning, in my opinion. It’s either arrogant or naive. Reviewers obviously weren’t that thrilled about it. Whether it was groundbreaking or not seems to depend on the reviewer.

    As for Apocalypse Now, I think it did exactly what I described. It took Heart of Darkness from Congo to Vietnam, and actually surpassed the original by relocating to a more modern setting, a modern war, and as such rewriting the analogy as a criticism of an entirely new empire, motivated by entirely new factors.

    It also had the truly groundbreaking writing of Francis Ford Coppola (and I’m thinking to a lesser extent, the Homefront guy) which truly set it apart from anything before or after.

    Can you honestly say the same thing for Spec Ops?

    “If you choose to overlook shortcomings, I’m sure anything becomes significantly better. Normally I try not to do that.”

    Which is why I said try :)

    Ultimately the game has to be good enough to justify that. In Bioshocks case, I thought it was interesting to be cast into a decaying underwater dictatorship where people had gone mad and started gruesomely experimenting on eachother, and even their children. That alone is a truly stimulating premise.

    The mechanics were pretty sucky, but they were often put to good use. Igniting liquids, electrifying water, melting ice, throwing back grenades. It wasn’t a success, but it was enough to keep me entertained.

    #17 2 years ago
  18. YoungZer0

    @17: Yeah, i guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. But i can already see that no matter what i say, you already formed your opinion about the game, so i won’t bother any more. :/

    #18 2 years ago
  19. DSB

    You could say that. My opinion right now is that it isn’t worth the money to find out whether it’s actually good or not.

    #19 2 years ago
  20. YoungZer0

    @19: You can still rent it, you know. But at least you’re being honest.

    #20 2 years ago

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