Being the bad guys As Molleindustria’s McDonalds’ video game, Oiligarchy places the player in the shoes of the “bad guys” in order to articulate the critique. Our belief is that power structures can be understood more clearly if represented from a privileged position. The player tends to perform actions with both positive outcomes (profits, advancement in the game) and social or environmental costs (a.k.a. negative externalities) dealing with responsibilities in a system that does not really punish unethical choices. The unethical gameplay is designed to reflect the free market system, which is ultimately, the object of the critique.
Moreover, a mirrored point of view can avoid the trap of the “simulated activism”, a cathartic illusion of empowerment and normative “do the right thing” enunciates. Games do not work as Skinnerian conditioning devices: games rewarding (virtual) social change do not produce activists for the same reasons games rewarding (virtual) violence do not produce violent players. As a result of taking a look at the players’ feedback, it is apparent that pushing the people to explore the dark side, especially if done with abundant irony, does not undermine the overarching game objectives.

April 5, 2010