Gameplay Journal Entry #8

For this weeks journal I choose to review “Bioharmonious” on the Games for Change website. The game is about 2 planets, one that is full of nature and life and the other manufactured and full of pollution, and your job is to balance the planets by bringing animals and plants from the nature planet over to the polluted planet. Bioharmonious teaches the player about human’s impact on the environment and paints a potential future for our planet if we don't respond to the damages we are doing. As I played, I was able to directly see the effects of my actions onto the planets I was working on, which is what the message of the game is trying to put across. The message is clearly stated through the gameplay of the game but the effectiveness of the gameplay in delivering that message lacks. If the game allowed for more options to terraform the 2 planets and made it so that it was harder to restore bioharmony to both planets, I would be able to more clearly see, as a player, ways that I can help reduce pollution and how difficult it is to do that in an already heavily polluted world.

I would like to take a step back and state that I did not get the full experience of the game in my playthrough and as such my review of its limited gameplay mechanics could be a bit skewed, but through the 3/7 endings that I got I feel as if that was a reasonable assumption for the remaining endings. While reading through Mary Flanagan and Helen Nissenbaum’s chapters in the reading and learning about different ways to express social and political themes throughout video games, I learned that the message that the player recieves is completely up to them to interpret and value themselves. The quote that I’m referencing is “Another obvious source of values are players. Having recognized the importance of this key population in determining the values to be embodied in a system, the challenge is how to go about discovering the values that are important to them in relation to a given system” (A Game Design Methodology to Incorporate Social Activist Themes, 5). So in the end, my view of this game is completely my own and I could have missed some key values that really make or break the game but I had a fun time playing the game, especially about the environment because I think its really important, and I hope that they continue development on it.