Machinima Report

Monday, February 12, 2007

Existing Signficant Documentary Project Seeks Transformation

The phone rings, It’s Nonny. I’m up, I’m at my computer, but I don’t expect anyone else to expect that. “Non, do you know what time it is?” Yes, but she’s calling from EST. She has two small children and morning is prime time so she doesn’t waste any and proceeds to tell me that she’s uncovered a grant opportunity on the MacArthur site for “existing significant documentary projects” to be translated into digital media. “I have the documentary,” (her film, UNCONSTITUTIONAL, about the abuses of the Patriot Act) and you can design a game, the Guantánamo Game!

Not a game! But, OK, something digital, OK. Even though I work at one of the centers of the so-called Serious Games Movement at the Interactive Media Division of USC's School of Cinematic Arts and am currently working on an Annenberg sponsored game on political redistricting The Redistricting Game the word ‘game’ still chafes.

I start to probe: I know what is wrong with Guantánamo but there is so much that is wrong – where do we start? I ask her “What is the fundamental concept you’d like to get across? Nonny’s answer was immediate, “Habeas Corpus. Our nation is denying the basic right of habeas corpus to detainees.” I ask her to drop any ideas of using the computer and envision how it would work. She tells me that she’d love to have a kit to give to teachers and let kids inhabit a prison cell and fell what it is like to be stripped of their habeas corpus rights. Build the prison, inhabit it and then, tear it down!

Eureka! I’ve got it: a virtual Guantánamo! We can build it in Second Life? “What is Second Life?” Non asked, I gave a brief explanation – we can build an experiential, virtual Guantánamo Prison which students, whole classrooms, people from around the world, can visit. “And they can tear it down!” she said.

"And just one more thing," she added, “the grant is due Wednesday afternoon by 5PM!”

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