Friday, July 30, 2010

The Curious Curfew


So there I was, sitting in a limey burger joint, eating ‘micro-burgers’ and trying to figure out how to kill some time.  Oh sure, I played the government approved game where I got to shoot peace protesters and non-conformists to my heart’s content (seriously, that was in the game!), but it just wasn’t doing it for me anymore.  I needed a proper thrill for a Brit teenager.  Perhaps some fish and chips would fit the bill?

As I “queued up” in front of the ‘B’ citizen counters, one of the hired help offered to help me get my hands on a copy of Grand Theft Auto 13, a most definitely not government approved video game.  It was at that point that I…fell asleep.   Well, that’s not entirely true.  I did revisit the game later that night with the intent of seeing just where this browser-based game from the UK’s Channel 4 was taking me, but after sitting through what seemed an eternity’s worth of propaganda (I mean the propaganda of the game, not the propaganda in the game), I reached the mini-game where I needed to knock out a security camera with a slingshot that was about as accurate as a peashooter in the hands of an asthmatic.  I mean, trite politically correct propaganda is bad enough, but bad mini-games are simply intolerable!

Now, to be fair, Curfew does initially have a few charms.  When I first started the game, I was having a good time.  In many ways, Curfew reminded me of a Flash-based Orwellian take on those classic text-based adventures from Infocom of many years ago.  The premise is an interesting one:  figure out which of the four people trapped in a resistance safe house with you are trustworthy enough to deliver a secret package.  You go about this by engaging in some standard Q & A that will be familiar to any RPG player.  However, the game doesn’t stop there but actually takes the player through the story for each of the four occupants, showing just how they wound up in the safe house on the run from Big Brother, allowing the player make some choices and shape the game along the way, of course.  That is…I am assuming this is where the game was heading as I never did get beyond the awful slingshot mini-game for the “Boy” character.  Heck, for all I know, he could have ran to the safe house after his parents found out he blew his university fund on soft-core cable porn.

Of course, the idea of making a video game to warn against the dangers of governmental tyranny (in this case, brought about by a failed terrorist attack – how original) is a potentially good one.  Unfortunately, where Curfew falls flat on its face is that it has confused teen angst with tyranny.  To see this, just take a look at its cast of characters:

•    The Boy:  he’s on a quest to get his hands on a banned video game!
•    The Immigrant:  tastefully from Iraq (of course), and seeking to stop her parents from being deported.
•    The Dissident:  How dare the government stop her non-stop orgy of sex and drugs?!?
•    The Ex-Policeman:  He’s corrupt, don’t you know.

Wow, how thoroughly…threadbare.  I mean, these anthropomorphic fears sound like they were cobbled together by a group-think panel made up of MTV suits, the Weather Underground,  and Code Pink (well, their British counterparts, I suppose).  I mean…really?  This is the hallmark of tyranny in the modern world?  In a nation that has bona fide food police, I would think a game such as Curfew (the name of which references another adolescent fear) would tackle much bigger fish.  Then again, the game does have “micro-burgers”, so perhaps the later stages of Curfew does take to task Britain’s real signs of encroaching statism, such as with the aforementioned food police.  To its credit, Curfew does seem to take a swipe at Britain’s more than four million cameras that track its citizenry’s every move (Eric Blair is probably spinning in his grave), so I suppose it could be in there somewhere.  Would it be too much to hope that Curfew might also warn of the dangers of a government that enjoys iron-fisted control over the very bodily health of its people, as does the National Health Service?  Perhaps, as there is a less than encouraging scene where “the Boy” visits an old man’s rundown home and sadly laments how the government isn’t taking care of its citizenry.  I guess the lesson here is that one person’s tyranny is another’s cradle-to-grave welfare state.

All in all, what I saw of Curfew makes it out to be little more than a cobbled together list of politically correct fears set in an interactive game environment that gets old almost as fast as its pretentious lecturing.  It is little more than e-propaganda.   When you stop and think about it, how ironic:  Curfew is a propaganda game that warns about the dangers of authoritarian propaganda!

You can’t make this stuff up!

Curfew will soon be forgotten.  Unfortunately, those of its kind will keep coming.  As I mentioned in another entry, it is only a matter of time until gaming is fully seized upon as the next, great method of political indoctrination.  No doubt, the statists will be there first, as they are always quicker off the mark than their liberty-loving counterparts (when dealing with self-evident truths, you rarely have a need for mind-bending propaganda – hence, the speed discrepancy).  Issues of liberty and tyranny are serious matters, especially in these dangerous times where statism is on the rise around the globe.  The question is:  will the champions of a mature vision of liberty (or tyranny, for that matter) seize the high ground this time, or will they be forced to, once again, charge up the hill long after the statists have entrenched themselves and made a mess of things?

Feel free to check the game out for yourself and let me know what you think.

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