If I were a right-wing douchebag game developer looking to troll lefty activists, this is the game I would make.
Page 2, Game 14: Tonight We Riot by Means Interactive
This is not to say I think the game developer ACTUALLY IS a right-wing douchebag getting their troll on. I think this is earnestly meant as a piece of power-trip catharsis for protesters and the protest-curious. But if you were to tell me “Actually, bro, I’ve been following the dev’s personal Twitter feed and it is MAGA AS FUCK,” I’d be like, “Yeah, I can see it.”
This is a side-scrolling beat-em-up, loosely in the style of Double Dragons or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The legit interesting twist on this one, though, is that you recruit followers to your cause (by standing outside the appropriate buildings and pressing the “recruit” button). Soon, your isolated radical has become a leader! The people are united! And they are there to take back the streets!
And by “take back,” I mean “kill cops and wreck shit.” That’s your goal; wreck stuff, kill cops. In the early stages, the cops don’t even attack you unless you attack them first — and if one of the disposable mooks following you around gets close enough, they absolutely will throw the first punch. This gets less true fairly quickly as the game progresses, but fuck me, by that point, after all the cops we’ve brutally murdered, I kinda don’t blame them for being a little trigger happy. I don’t think it counts as paranoia or excessive force when they really ARE out to leave you beaten to death in the street, you know?
You gain weapons as you go — sometimes hiding within all those delightfully smashable crates, sometimes just hanging out in the middle of the street. Some people might be suspicious of piles of bricks sitting right where a protest might be headed. But are YOU gonna overlook what is clearly God’s effort to arm your righteous fury? I think not!
There is just so much about this game that grosses me out. It starts with the over-the-top Soviet-esque propaganda feel of the framing story. It feels like a parody, like speculation on what anti-Western propaganda might feel like if the USSR had survived to the modern day — except I’m not at all confident the author is in on the joke. I’m no fanboy of unchecked capitalism, but unironically embracing brutal totalitarianism because it too had beef with capitalism isn’t a form of “progress” I can get behind.
I hate the way this game treats protesting as a vehicle for murder and destruction. You’re there to kill people, and leave their mangled little pixelated corpses lying in the street behind you. You’re there to wreck shit. You’re here to skip all the boring chanting bullshit and skip directly to rioting, aka The Fun Part. It’s protesting as envisioned by the memes that one Fox-news-obsessed jagoff you knew from high school keeps posting in Facebook. It’s activism as imagined by dipshit teenage anarchists cosplaying as revolutionaries.
But most of all, I hate the crowd mechanic. When the character you’re controlling dies, you keep going as long as you still have at least one of your disposable followers is still alive — they’ll pick up the flag (literally) and carry it forward. You get the highest ranking by maximizing the number of followers still alive by the end of the level, but ultimately, your casualties are irrelevant as long as one of you slaughters their way through to the end.
This game feels like it fucking despises protesters, and has nothing but contempt for what it sees as their simplistic and violent worldview and their sheeplike devotion to a cause that regards them as nothing but disposable cannon fodder. I have no idea if that represents a dramatic misfire and the complete opposite of what the dev intended, or if that’s secretly the entire goddamn point.
Either way, I’m out. Especially these days.
Perhaps the next game will piss me off less?
Page 17, Game 24: Spectres of the Cold by Daniel Savage
“Here I felt my flesh become the food of my fears.”
Yeah, some nice soothing existential dread sounds like just the thing.