What price to make the trains run on time? Over the course of several months, this game explores the rise of a dystopian future which, depressingly, feels less and less of a far fetched idea on a daily basis. With Fox news now practically state-controlled media in the USA, this game does pack a punch.
As a copywriter in the government controlled Advertising Corrections Team, you are charged with de-politicizing and ‘correcting’ advertisements and, later, news stories. During the course of the game, as the political noose tightens, the rule for this become more and more far-reaching.
The question is asked. Do you become the titular Ostrich – bury your head in the sand and don’t act – or do you take a stand. The game explores the consequences of these choices. Can you really make a difference or, ultimately, can a single person effect change?
I played through three times. The game offers a fair degree of branching possibilities and agency. One my second and third play through’s – I set goals for myself. To be as politically active as possible and then to be as pliantly conforming as possible – I will say that despite the seeming inevitability of the ultimate outcome, the text does vary significantly – my actions have a definite impact
One of the core mechanisms of the game, the correcting of the advertisement and story text, was, I felt, very well done. Over time, the rules become stricter, and you can see, as the player, the power of the written word in media – as you change the text, and begin to reject some stories entirely, it becomes apparent what impact your work is having. And this without any exposition. It’s unnecessary to tell us, as we are seeing it first hand.
The prose is sparse and well-written. If I had a minor complaint it’s that I would have liked to have seen this work expanded a little – this is such a rich area for exploration that I was frustrated when the game ended.
I have quite a lot more to explore in this game. I see from the ending that I haven’t yet seen all it has to offer. As a vision of a potential future and an exploration of how the media can control and shape perception, it works well. The future, presented here, is all too real.
But hey, at least the trains run on time, eh? 8/10.