Monday, March 30, 2009

Indie Games meet Global Politics

I'm always surprised when my two biggest interests, international conflict resolution and video games, collide. Usually the result is some sort of World War 2 first-person-shooter, which is fun but generally fails to actually, you know, promote international conflict resolution.

I've just ran across an independent game that seems to take a different take on the idea. It's called Storytron: Balance of Power in the 21st century. In it, you play an American leader following 9-11 trying to set the world right.

Being a hippie who hates America and who bathes in flowers, I immediately set about trying to improve America's relations with the Middle East. As a first step, I humbly asked Israel to recognize Palestine and to remove its settlements in the West Bank. Imagine my shock when Israel refused, even after I went and brought the EU to the table, and India. Even after I offered some trade agreements and some moderate political prodding, my efforts to promote a just world were rebuffed.

So, just to see what would happen, I clicked the "nuke Israel" button.

I quickly learned that it is a bad idea to nuke Israel. My international standing dropped like a rock. I was uniformly condemned by my European allies, who rallied behind - get this - Kim Jung Il of North Korea to pass a censure vote against America in the United Nations. On the plus side, however, what was left of Israel did end up recognizing Palestine. I decided to retire in infamy and lick my wounds on the political sidelines. To the right is my ending scorecard, with American power in the world ultimately dropping slightly, and American credibility in the world non-existent. I wonder if this is how Bush felt leaving office...

I had a bit of fun with this game putting my political ideology to the test. If anything this game has definitely illustrated that the non-violent course of action is a very difficult one. I plan to try a few more times and see if I can't do it all right.

In all seriousness - I would never accept a nuclear option in real life - I think this game presents some interesting opportunities to challenge our beloved mindsets. Everyone who has an opinion about how we should have handled the world following 9/11, please check out the link above.

On a side note, I can't help but underline how important it is that it was a game that caused me to think about my own ideology. Games aren't just Super Mario Brothers, folks... they sometimes present complex and difficult themes, in ways that simple stories or movies can't. I've been mining the Indie Game scene, and I can say for absolute certain that games like these are not uncommon phenomena. They're out there, and they deserve recognition.


  1. Very cool... now I want to play this game.

  2. Yes, but what is the social significance of Yoshi's World, hmmmmmmmm?