An emerging genre of games based on people’s real-life experiences is proving provocative and compelling
In my myriad careers as a video game player, I have waited tables in Diner Dash, manned trebuchets in Total War, driven cabs in Crazy Taxi, delivered newspapers as Paperboy and tilled fields in Farming Simulator. Play is work’s twin, and video games are characterised by their capacity to allow us to inhabit the vocations and occupations of others. In general, however, the people whose lives we dip into, playfully, are anonymous, or at least fictional. Literature has biography. Film has biopic. But the interactive biography (the biogame?) has been mostly absent from video games.
The closest the medium has come is perhaps in the realm of sports, where for more than three decades we have been able to assume the likeness and talents of superstar athletes, from 1984’s Daley Thompson’s Decathlon to any one of the thousands of footballers who populate each year’s Fifa. This is more aspirational role play than earnest biographical study, however. Tiger Woods was for years the cover star of EA’s flagship golfing series of video games, which in the manner of professional endorsements exclusively focused on his triumphs at the tee. The more sinewy fodder of Woods’s off-green breakdown was not only overlooked in games, but actively shunned: in 2013 the golfer’s lucrative contract with EA was not renewed.