Sunday, 17 January 2010

Helping you back to work...

[Image - Still from 'Every Day The Same Dream' by Molleindustria] 

Having struggled through the first half of January you may have already reneged on your New Year resolutions, and resigned yourself to yet another of the same routine. In order to help shake you out of your malaise political videogame designers Molleindustria offer their latest creation Everyday The Same Dream. The game was created in six days for the Experimental Gameplay Project. The game's designer describes it as follows:
“Every day the same dream” is a slightly existential riff on the theme of alienation and refusal of labor. The idea was to charge the cyclic nature of most video games with some kind of meaning (i.e. the “play again” is not a game over). Yes, there is an end state, you can “beat” the game.
Playing the game as an anonymous white collar worker you are invited to go through the motions of the weekly routine i.e. get up and go to work. The cyclical structure of the game, monochrome aesthetic, and hypnotically repetitious soundtrack, all serve to foreground the limited opportunities for agency in both the gaming environment and, by extension, daily life. Although I have reservations about whether it fully succeeds in conveying its intended message, it looks fantastic, and is definitely worth a go. The game can be played online or downloaded from the same location: Everyday The Same Dream. 

Another game by Molleindustria on the theme of work is TamaTipico. In this variant on the Japanese Tamagotchi, rather than caring for a virtual pet, your task is to balance the work commitments, happiness and welfare of your own virtual flexi-worker. The intention is that in doing so you identify with the character. The simplicity of the game means that its message is far more immediate. As you struggle to ensure that your TamaTipico remains productive and gets sufficient sleep, it becomes painfully obvious how little time is left for anything else.

The same character also makes an appearance in Tuboflex. Here you work for a global Human Resources service called Tuboflex Inc., who literally pipe temps down tubes to their next jobs. Working for Turboflex you can end up anywhere from a factory to a shopping mall as Santa Claus. Make too many mistakes though and you'll be blacklisted. Although the game has a serious message about the relation between globalisation and wage labour, it is also the most amusing of the three. Perversely enough I found busking Frère Jacques with an accordion, after being blacklisted, to be most enjoyable. If you click on the dog he'll bark along.

These games fascinate me, not only for their attempt to educate us about the complexities of commodification in global markets, but also because they try to enact meaningful resistance through play. In their own words: "Radical games against the dictatorship of entertainment".

[Molleindustria by Paolo Pedercini on Vimeo]

For those interested in learning more about Molleindustria's unique fusion of video gaming and politics I recommend reading Alessandro Ludovico's report on a talk by founder Paolo Pedercini: Molleindustria, videogame rules as a political medium. Please feel free to comment below and share your thoughts.

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