What Happened to ANGEL THY GUARDIAN?

February 5th, 2010 § 0

Ah. Funny you should ask.

Our original launch title, ANGEL THY GUARDIAN, was submitted to the App Store on 17 January. It was rejected on 28 January for objectionable violent content, specifically the depiction of “potential harm to children.”

A few, quick notes on that.

First point. Our group of beta testers included a diverse demographic: parents; grandparents; childless adults; and actual children. None of them found the content or gameplay offensive.

Second point. Mary Flanagan argues that the “mechanics is the message” in games. I agree, but apparently Apple does not. The mechanical rhetoric of ANGEL THY GUARDIAN is protection from harm; one acts to prevent violence. I would offer as contrasting examples games currently for sale in the App Store such as Assassin FPS, where the gameplay is the enacting of violence. I am not making a value judgment on whether one is “better” than the other, or whether violence in games is “bad.” I do argue, however, that mechanics matter. Games are a media form from which subjective action cannot be divorced. A game no one plays is not a game. (Even Jesper Juul’s Cagean concept piece 4:32 requires action. Likewise, refusing to act when playing Brenda Brathwaite‘s Train is a deliberate act of conscience.) What one DOES in a game should not be arbitrary from a game design or critical perspective.

Third point. Childhood in Victorian culture was inextricably linked to potential harm and death, and this morbid association was highly romanticized in contemporary art, journalism, and popular culture – for adult and juvenile audiences. The mechanics in ANGEL THY GUARDIAN reference this cultural history by tightly linking to the surface aesthetic. (Specifically, the graphics do not depict “children” in a generic sense. The original, nineteenth-century illustrations depict a Victorian interpretation of what “children” meant, a depiction rooted in a specific historic context.)

There’s a longer post (or two) waiting to be written on the social construction of childhood and mortality by Victorian culture, as well as the place of mechanics in relation to surface in game design and criticism. But that will have to wait for now, because I have games to make.

- K. Fletcher

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