Real Life Assassin's Creed.
Wednesday, 16 July 2014
When Mistakes make Bestsellers.
Two days ago a friend of mine wrote me: “check The Red Solstice on Steam, it seems interesting”. I did and it was: an early-access indie co-op game, created by Croatian developer Ironward. And the price is good: $19.99 with a 40% early access discount that makes it $14.99. For two copies. The price is really good. Maybe too good...
Apparently the price was intended for one copy, and a mistake on Steam made it the price for two! The news circulated quickly, also because the mistake was to be corrected the very next day. Many hungry gamers rushed to buy the underpriced game, and the developers had to give new extra keys to their supporters on Kickstarter to make up for the mistake.
Good day for gamers, bad day for developers? Not really: El Oschuro, one of the developers made an announcement on steam, saying that The Red Solstice had been on the Steam Top ten the all week and had 1,000 current players all the weekend. Not bad at all, even less for an indie!
Maybe it could seem that the mistake meant a big loss of money for the developers, but I'm convinced that all the buzz around the game will end up as a very big advertising campaign, and that having a huge lot of people playing a co-op game (that is actually pretty good) will result in a lot more potential buyers in the future.
If so, Ironward will have to thank Steam for the happy mistake...
Friday, 4 July 2014
1000 Days of Syria.
According to Huizinga's Homo Ludens, war shares many characteristics with play. Undoubtedly war games are one of the widest games genres, ranging from chess to Call of Duty, counting thousands of titles. In an age of relative peace it has become clear that enjoying war in a playful way has nothing to do with raising young soldiers, but covers, more likely, a metaphoric function representing everyday struggles against life, at work, at school and in family.
War in games is often fictional, and even when it's inspired by a real war it is represented in a very stereotypical way. That's why the Nazis are so widely exploited in games and fiction: they are perfect example of stereotypical villains in the real world.
Reality is more complicated and real contemporary wars are a very delicate subject that can't be handed lightly. War games set in conflicts still happening would be politically incorrect, disrespectful or even dangerous.
On the other hand games about ongoing conflicts can be very interesting and instructive. It's the case of 1000 days of Syria a text based historical fiction game. The author, journalist Mitch Swenson, has been in Syria in September 2013 and what he saw was so enormous confronted to the lack of interest for this conflict in the West, that he had to do something. That's how 1000 Days of Syria is born.
Says Swenson: “My intention is neither to entertain players with, nor benefit from, the deaths that have resulted from the instability in Syria. In fact my aim is just the opposite. Sometimes the word "game" can be misconstrued into something that seems removed and reductive in the context of real life danger and death. In that way some might say that 1000 Days of Syria should not be considered a game at all, but rather an interactive education. That is for you to decide.”
I played this game, this “exercise in transmedia storytelling, part electric literature; part newscast; and part choose-your-own-adventure” and it literally broke my heart. It is not particularly pathetic, or tragic, if so it wouldn't work. It is simple and sincere and with its clean narrative can make you feel and live the Syrian war. When the game starts you cross the Syrian border. And with “you” I mean the player, not his or her character. What you see after the crossing will never leave you, it will follow you at the end of the game and accompany you in your everyday life, wherever you live. 1000 Days of Syria is an overwhelmingly immersive game or, at least, it has been to me.
Mitch Swenson is reluctant to call hi creature a “game”, word that too often is associated to something opposite to “serious”. In my opinion serious games like this are probably the better way to look and understand conflicts that, even if far away, can be also very close.
I would like to thank Gabriele Ferri for suggesting me 1000 Days of Syria.