Games are currently undergoing a social revolution that consist mainly of two groups.
The first one considers games are something not serious, only a medium for recreation not different from any toy. Games are either something for kids or something that you waste your time on.
On the other hand, the second group sees the potential in games, their cultural significance.
A MUN, Model United Nations, is “an educational simulation and academic competition in which students learn about diplomacy, international relations, and the United Nations.” They are quite popular and worldwide, with notable examples such as the Harvard MUN (HMUN).
But here’s an idea: MUNs are the biggest, most socially accepted role-playing games in the world. And that idea seems to bother people (just like the idea of considering some games as sport).
Let’s see, you have a group of people roleplaying the job of a delegate from another country (race), under the rules of a moderator (dungeon master). You also have clear goals, rules and people willing to participate, with no direct impact on the real world (unless you consider the case were popular resolutions can later be discussed at the real UN). All of this supported by mechanics that include talking to other players, debate, ask for the right to speak, and such. You sir, have a game right there.
So, why can’t MUNs be fundamentally a game? Is it because they are “serious”? Games like Spec Ops: The Line have proven that they don’t need to be fun to be a game. Is it because they treat real world problems and issues? Just because most games people know have some kind of fantasy-theme involved doesn’t mean the medium as a whole isn’t capable to deal with real-life themes.
I think this misconception is, in part, a byproduct of the current industry’s behaviour. When most of the games that are created fit into and reinforce the mental picture the general public has, it’s hard to argue otherwise. The best thing developers can do is to provide their little grain of sand towards a better medium. We must build the tools that will allow us to show that games do matter.
The journey is long and not easy. MUNs are a great starting point to educate society towards a better understanding of games.
Games aren’t bad or silly by themselves, they are what we make of them.