10 Best Video Games That Deal With Social Issues

While the majority of people still view video games as a form of childish entertainment, some developers are slowly changing that mindset by creating thought-provoking games. Like other forms of media such as movies or TV shows, games can address important societal issues and influence a player’s worldview.

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Sometimes video games have even more impact than other types of media because games require the audience to be an active participant, which can make the gamer more engaged than just watching things unfold. With these games, the themes stay in the player’s head long after the end.

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The forgotten city


A screenshot from The Forgotten City game

The forgotten city is a mystery adventure game of 2021 which is a remade and expanded version of the award winning game of 2015 Skyrim module of the same name. Shortly after entering ancient ruins, the player is transported back in time to the days of the Roman Empire when the ruins were a bustling city. If the townspeople commit a sin, then everyone will be punished by the gods and turned into golden statues, which is known as the golden rule.

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Eventually, it is revealed that someone is breaking the rule and dooming all of civilization, and the player gets stuck in a time loop that can only be fixed by preventing disaster. Beneath all the magic, however, the game is an in-depth philosophical discussion of morality and conflicting belief systems.


God of War (2018)


atreus and kratos in god of war

Created as a soft reboot of the franchise, the action-adventure God of the war (2018) changed many fundamental aspects of the series to create a new experience after the series went stale. Some of the more obvious changes included the focus on Norse mythology rather than Greek mythology and Kratos’ weapon change. But the biggest change was the emphasis on Kratos’ character development caused by his son, Atreus.

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In the previous God of the war titles, Kratos’ extreme violence and anger were seen as important traits that defined both his character and the series. After director Cory Barlog had a son of his own, he was inspired to develop Kratos differently by having Atreus teach Kratos how to let go of some of his toxic masculinity and become a better parent.


spectator


Beholder 2 game screenshot

spectator is a series of adventure games set in a dystopian totalitarian police state, and the player must make difficult moral choices in order to survive. In the first game, the player is a state-installed landlord who is supposed to spy on tenants and report anyone who breaks the law to the government. Then, in the sequel, the player works in the central ministry and tries to develop his career.

Despite the slightly different premise, both games let the player choose to follow unjust laws, fight corruption, or just do anything to survive. A third game in the series is due out early this year.


milk in a bag of milk in a bag of milk


A screenshot of the game Milk inside a bag of milk inside a bag of milk

Of the many great visual novels out there, some of them use the game format as part of the story. For example, Doki Doki Literature Club uses the fact that it is a visual novel to tell the story of a character in the game who gains sensitivity. The 2020 game milk in a bag of milk in a bag of milk also does the same because the game’s main protagonist pretends she’s in a visual novel.

Due to a traumatic event, the main character struggles with his sanity, making simple tasks like going to the store a difficult challenge. As medicine, the player must help him complete the journey. On December 16, 2021, a sequel was released titled Milk outside a milk bag outside a milk bag.


black haven


A screenshot from the game Blackhaven

Released last summer black haven is a free first-person mystery adventure game that focuses on racism, slavery, and the whitewashing of history. The game follows a second-year HBCU student named Kendra Turner who completes an internship at the Blackhaven Hall Historical Society so she can earn enough money to travel to Greece for her studies. For this job, Kendra must perform various tasks at the historic site of a mansion burned down during the American Revolution.

But, while exploring the area, she slowly discovers that the museum hides the true history of the place. Now she must decide if she wants to keep quiet about the money laundering so she can keep her job or expose the real story.

papers please


papers please

One of the games that directly inspired the spectator series is the 2013 puzzle simulation game Papers please which is a game where the player is an immigration officer in a fictional dystopian country called Arstotzka. Each day, the player must decide who is allowed to enter the country by talking to immigrants and reviewing their documents.

As the game goes on, more rules are added and the player has a limited time each day to process the arrivals, which means that he will probably find it difficult to get enough money to pay for necessities such as food and rent. Depending on the player’s actions, they will get one of many different endings.

the world ends with you


A screenshot of Neku and Shiki fighting the noise in The World Ends With You Final Remix

Originally released for Nintendo DS in 2007, the world ends with you is an action JRPG that emphasizes the importance of knowing the ideas, beliefs, and perspectives of others. Players follow a teenager named Neku Sakuraba who is forced to team up with several other characters to beat Shibuya’s Reapers’ Game, which is a deadly game that certain individuals can play after they die that determines whether they are reborn, become reapers, or cease to exist.

Due to a traumatic event, Neku has decided he won’t connect with others anymore, but the game is slowly teaching him to trust people. The main message of the story is that people need to consider other perspectives in order to grow as individuals. Years later, a sequel was released titled Neo: the world stops with you, which is one of the best RPGs of 2021.


Adventures with anxiety!


A screenshot of the main character and his anxiety in Adventures With Anxiety!

In recent years, many developers have started making great games that deal with mental health. One of such games is Itch.io free game 2019 called Adventures with Anxiety!, which is an interactive story where the player controls an anthropomorphic wolf which is the manifestation of the main character’s anxiety. As anxiety, the player must choose options that will make the main character anxious.

Based on the creator’s own experience, the game accurately depicts what it’s like to have an anxiety disorder. While showing the dangers of excessive anxiety, it also expresses the importance of having some anxiety to stay safe.

Lisa


LISA Gameplay

After one of the most influential horror games, Yume Nikki, came out, many amazing games were directly inspired by it. One of these games is surreal horror game RPG Maker 2012 LISA: The first, which has the player explore the mind of a young girl named Lisa Armstrong who is being abused by her father, Marty. While Lisa does not survive after this first match in the Lisa trilogy, she remains a strong presence in the sequels.

The second game LISA: The Sorrowful, is a more standard RPG that follows Lisa’s brother Brad as he tries to save his adopted daughter Buddy. For the last game, LISA: The Happy, the player controls Buddy directly after the events of the previous game. Each game focuses on trauma and how it influences our perspective and our choices.

An outcry


A screenshot of Anonymous from the game An Outcry

Released January 5 An outcry is an RPG Maker horror game that follows a 25-year-old non-binary character, the No Name, who lives in a poor apartment in Vienna, Austria. After being accidentally locked out of their apartment and hearing a strange uproar, the No Name embarks on a multi-pronged narrative that involves various neighbors, smokers, and talking birds.

While choosing to fight or flee from killer birds, the player is immersed in a powerful story that addresses anxiety, politics, addiction, social justice, discrimination, LGBTQ+ issues, and more. In the end, the Nameless will have to decide if they will fight for their right to exist or surrender to their oppressors.


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