On Relevant Settings in Games L.B. Jeffries has a nice piece up arguing for more relevant and provocative settings in games in order to raise awareness and perhaps do something a little greater for disastrous (real world) situations. He points out that violence isn't incompatible with this, thus many classic genres would probably be quite at home dealing with nasty current day situations (as he points out, film has already done this — though not always through violent means — though Jeffries uses Rambo 4 as a cinematic touchstone). Of course, this comes with some problems:
... Setting a videogame in a modern setting is still going to raise the issue of tastelessness. Proper writing, mature mission themes, and engaging in conduct that isn’t wanton destruction are all going to be necessary. If you’re going to talk about mature topics, you have to handle them maturely and hope that resonates with the audience. Another issue raised is simply why bother at all? Why set a video game in a modern global conflict or historical moment that could be a blatant glorification of violence in some atrocious setting? Because raising awareness alone is a laudable goal. Going back to Rambo 4 for a moment, the movie managed to accomplish several amazing things despite its incredible violence. It raised awareness of the Myanmar situation so that aid and care were given to an otherwise ignored problem. Karen rebels received an incredible morale boost from the film and even use one of the quotes as a battle cry. A less action-based example, Hotel Rwanda came out ten years after the event but its success forced people to learn about an atrocity that was otherwise ignored. How many teens, how many potential activists, could be informed and contacted by playing a video game about an event? No matter what they’re doing in the game, how you frame and discuss the events they interact with will still control their impressions. Yes, there is potential for abuse here, but there is also great potential for good.
Worth a read, as most of Jeffries' essays are. Relevant Settings [Moving Pixels]