- Over on big sister site Gamasutra, we sometimes publish Letters To The Editor, and in this case, we're featuring on GSW a letter sent to us from Hope Benne, Professor of History at Salem State College because - well - it's quirky, but it asks a very interesting question:

"As a college professor who teaches peace studies, I happened upon your site when looking for metaphors on garbage collection.

I am so impressed by the excellence of your website and your enormous technical and creative skills, but am shocked by the underlying assumptions of your games. They revolve around win/lose, zero sum, might makes right thinking, and a tooth and claw view of nature, while there's a whole new effort out there to raise consciousness on new paradigms for conceptualizing life.

The new thinking has to do with healing, unifying, balancing, finding equilibrium, and, most of all, symbiosis. There's a lot more symbiosis in nature than competition, most modern biologists would verify this. I'm afraid you have been too greatly influenced by our sensationalized media industry.

I encourage you to use your considerable talents to change and evolve people's views, to create games which engage people's moral awareness, and connect with our highest aspirations, rather than repeat the ordinary win/lose thinking and pessimistic assumptions which can be seen everywhere."

Obviously, there's a couple of issues here - for one, that Gamasutra simply writes about games, and doesn't make them. But if we take 'your games' to mean the industry's output, there's an underlying nugget of truth in here. Sure, we have Peacemaker (pictured), and The Sims, and Animal Crossing, and Tetris, but the vast majority of games are indeed about conflict.

Yet almost this exact point came up in an Australian newspaper report on the Independent Games Festival, in which I'm interviewed and was asked about the level of conflict-based gameplay even in the relatively tame IGF finalists for last year:

"Mr Carless sees the casual violence more as an interactive and dramatic device than social indicator. "None of the IGF games are actually particularly realistic," he says. "Some of the things you are shooting at include chickens, in order to trap them inside a little bubble to score points (FizzBall), or abstract geometric shapes (Everyday Shooter).

'I think when you see projectiles interacting with other projectiles, it's more a function of game design than anything else. Games need dynamics and conflict to create resolution.'"

Yet, is this just an excuse? It does bother me a bit that so many games - even creative ones - focus so directly on conflict. But perhaps I'm just being overly PC - conflict is a fact of life, and it's one of the only ways you can model gameplay and controls. Thoughts, anyone?