Fake News and Nuclear Launches: Darkly Satirical Games for Even Darker Times
Somehow without even realizing it, reality seems to have slipped into Community's darkest timeline. Every day the news becomes more ludicrous to the point that satire sites no longer feel needed. The world is being run by reality show rejects, another world war seems around the corner, and every morning around 5:00 AM like clockwork the leader of the free world throws a childish Twitter tantrum while taking his morning deuce.
Prince, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Carrie Fischer... a wealth of music and screen talent saw the writing on the wall and collectively said "screw it, we're out" before the year even started in earnest. Horrible dystopian fiction seems more benign and less threatening by comparison to actual everyday life.
As Obsidian's latest classic cRPG Tyranny put it, "sometimes evil wins." Art imitates life, so it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that there are plenty of satirical games making light of the darkness, from a disturbingly real fake news simulator to a game whose only winning move is to simply not play at all.
Fake It To Make It
Hilarious at the beginning and then more and more worrying the longer you play, this "social impact" web browser game, Fake It To Make It, is all about creating fake news to earn clicks and ad revenue. The goal of the game is to create a fake and lazy site, make it seem legit, and then decide how to spend money on planting articles, monetizing by stealing personal info, or even planting malware.
When planting articles you have to make sure you are triggering a strong emotion, and always weigh the headline's believability to the drama factor. As the game's tutorial explains: "Fake news takes less time to create, and it often spreads better than real news, since you aren’t as constrained by facts."
Happiness doesn't create a sense of urgency, so to rake in the cash, it's better to stoke anger and fear, and prey on people's preconceived notions with things they want to believe, whether those things are true or not. It's basically the content of Facebook during the 2016 U.S. presidential election distilled into game form.
Religion and politics are the big ones, but you can get folks sharing articles if you make them scream "won't somebody please just think of the children!" or convince them a celebrity has died. If you feel like creating your own fake news empire, you can play Fake It To Make It right here.
The game's tag line is literally "everybody dies," so you know you're in for a good time with Defcon, which is clearly inspired by the '80s flick Wargames.
Ever wanted to be the guy in the bunker with his finger on the trigger? That's what you get to do in Defcon, as negotiations have broken down and everyone around the world is getting nuke happy.
A strategy game that smiles in the face of the apocalypse, there's really only one way any given round can end: a fun radiation cloud enveloping the globe.
Report to the Ministry Of Admission immediately and take up your new role as arbitrator of who gets to enter communist Arstotzka, and who gets sent packing back across the other side of the wall -- this is Papers, Please.
Your choices will have very serious real world impacts on people's lives, and you will get things wrong, resulting in deaths and worse. I imagine certain members of our government probably play this as light hearted weeknight entertainment...
So this one's actually a bit of a question mark as to how biting the satire will be and just what sort of dystopia is on display, since we don't have a ton of details yet on CD Projekt Red's next big entry.
When it arrives (probably somewhere around the same year as its namesake) its a pretty good bet we'll be seeing some social and political commentary in the story.
Although an exceedingly dark game, Bioshock Infinite features a ton of humor and sub-text just beneath the surface, like an organization that worships John Wilkes Booth as a savior. George Washington robots prowl the flying city and patriotism and religious fervor taken to their extremes result in a truly deadly place to visit.
The game sort of reached legendary status when a Tea Party group took the image below -- not realizing it was from a game mocking their political leanings -- and used it as their Facebook banner. Woops.
Political and religious commentary aside though, this may very well be the finest game to have been released on the 360, with its innovative FPS concepts and mind-bending story that has you hopping dimensions and constantly guessing as to just who you really are.
Those darn kids and their time-travelling, dimension-hopping antics from the first game accidentally led to the rise of an evil dentist tyrant -- who has outlawed all candy -- in part 2 of this adorable RPG series.
It's the classic dystopian megalomaniac, but with an exceedingly silly twist. If you want your bleak future a little more funny and filled with wonder, this is the one to play.
What did you think of our picks, and what satirical games would you recommend for those down in the dumps over our current dark times?