Please welcome Robin Smith to the PN2 family. Robin comes to us from the UK and is a former founding member of True Geek Radio.
This past couple of weeks have been… interesting… for those of us living in the UK. We faced a monumental vote that, at its end, caused ripples in the financial landscape, not just in the United Kingdom but much of the rest of the world too. People on all sides had diverse and wide ranging reactions, from devastation to elation.
This past weekend, after taking a couple of days to recover from the chaos, I became curious. How would the game development communities online respond to Brexit? More intriguingly, had someone created a game in response?
Who was I kidding, of course someone had.
As I made my way to the indie development corners of the web, I quickly typed ‘BREXIT’ into the search bar on Itch.io and was quickly faced with two results. The most obvious title that leapt out at me involved the disembodied head of David Cameron. For those of you not in the UK or not interested in politics, he’s the now soon to be former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. For those who don’t know what a Prime Minister is… google is your friend.
Super Brexit, by Hot Cereal, promises the opportunity to lie to the public. For the most part it does what it says on the tin. You select to be the floating head of David “Clammy fingers” Cameron (who here resembles a haunted British gas man who’s gotten lost on the way to reading your winter meter reading) or Boris “Hair styled by a tornado” Johnson (former Mayor of London and leader of the ‘leave’ campaign).
No matter what choice you make you do the same thing. Scrolling left to right, or right to left if you’re feeling a little cheeky, flicking switches while comments from the two sides of the EU referendum campaign flash up on a small screen. Once you flick all the switches you get to press a big button and it’s officially confirmed that the whole of the UK is … well let’s say it involved a rude word that I won’t repeat here. While all this is taking place, we are serenaded by a chip tune take on “God save the Queen”. The boring one, not the punk rock remix by the Sex Pistols.
So far so thin. Sure, it tackles much of what the public is feeling, but it’s a short satire at best. There must be something with a bit more bite.
The second title in my search was the interactive fiction game by Greg Buchanan, Paper Brexit. The game starts out as a simple text adventure, very quickly though it becomes a tense and super interesting multi layered metaphor on the reasoning behind the votes for any side of the EU referendum, while simultaneously tackling several other seemingly unrelated topics. There are elements of satire, but the choices you make show a perspective of a person confused and even unwell.
You play both the voice of a person and the spirit of a country, before long having the short but gripping narrative take an ever more sinister tone. Paper Brexit is the polar opposite of Super Brexit, but both do interesting things to conceptually represent both the feelings people are having in the wake of such a choice, and show very different takes artists and developers can take to these topics.
Other related searches turned up a wide range of different projects, like Duckton Declares: The Referendum! where you take on the role of a vote counter in a fictional village and have to attempt to count the votes accurately and quickly. Others include games that involved you running around getting votes for future Presidents while avoiding being bought off by rivals.
My personal highlight, though not related to the Brexit itself, has to be Mr President Can You Explain the Hamsters, in which you’re a group of hamsters impersonating the President (so … that’s normal, right? – Ed.).
These are just a small sampling of the odd and interesting takes on the political climates we are in today that can be found over at the likes of Game Jolt, Itch.io and Alpha Beta Gamer, among many others. As weird as the world is right not politically, there’s no doubt that it provides plenty of inspiration.
Robin Smith is a freelance journalist and contributor to PN2. Go say hi @seiibutsu.