Why am I giving this game away? - OR - Can a game make you cry?

I’ve always believed that games can have social value. Chris Crawford’s 1985 classic game of geopolitical brinkmanship, “Balance of Power”, showed the futility of nuclear war. There are other examples, the 1997 PlayStation game, “Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee” covered the exploration of workers in a moving way:

The game centers on the titular Abe, a meek Mudokon slave at the RuptureFarms meat processing factory. When he discovers that he and his fellow Mudokons are to be slaughtered, Abe decides to escape and liberate as many enslaved Mudokons as he can. The player assumes the role of Abe as he attempts a perilous quest to emancipate his downtrodden people.

For me the example that best represents a creative effort that moved me to tears is the 1959 film, “On The Beach”.

As we see at point-blank range, and frequently in intense, emotional close-ups, the survivors wish for more time.  They wish for a future.  They desire a happy ending.  They just want hope. But the movie’s most effective and impressive point — pushed quietly if deftly — is that all those wishes died when the bombs fell.  The time for good wishes would have been before man set about to annihilate his brothers. 

“On The Beach” scared me and I’m sure many other “cold war” children (and adults). The ending scene of the film shows a deserted world with banners expressing futile hope in a dramatic image.


I want to invoke the same feelings about our ever more likely Climate Apocalypse as “On The Beach” did for nuclear war. As the scientist in that film says:

“Who would ever have believed that human beings would be stupid enough to blow themselves off the face of the Earth?”

I simply can’t believe we’re stupid enough to cook ourselves off the face of the Earth. If I can achieve 1/10th of the emotional impact of “Oddworld” or “On The Beach” I will be happy with the effort.

Which leads to the question of this blog entry … why am I giving this game away?

When you think about it, a decent “Oregon Trail” gameplay game could make some income. One example, “The Organ Trail” (a game about fleeing zombies) did quite well. After-all “Oregon Trail” itself sold over 65 million copies.

But I’m not doing this to sell games. I want to create an emotional impact, weave in science information, and make a game that makes a difference. One of the cool side effects of the decision to release a REALLY FREE game is that good people are contributing to the effort (art, music, UI etc.) at minimal expense. Otherwise I couldn’t afford this level of production quality. It also makes it easier for climate advocates to spread the word about the game, since I’m not profiting from it.

Will it succeed? I don’t know. But I figured it was better than just wallowing in despair over our inaction and ignorance on climate change.

(note: “Can a game make you cry?” was a tag line in a classic Electronic Arts advertisement in the 1980’s)

William VolkComment