Ayiti: Cost of Life

Recently, on a recommendation on this blog, I tried Ayiti, a UNICEF-sponsored game about the difficulty of making ends meet as a poor family in Haiti.

It’s deeper and more playable than some of the other political games I’ve mentioned here recently: the interface is mostly well-designed (though I had a couple of particular gripes); there’s enough variation from playthrough to playthrough that you have to adapt your strategy a bit even when you think you’ve cracked the game; and it didn’t feel like preaching to the choir, at least not all the time.

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McDonalds Videogame

Continuing with the protest game theme (something that I’ve found increasingly interesting of late), recently I played a few rounds of the McDonalds videogame.

The premise is that you’re running McDonalds (no coy alternative parody names here — they frankly use the brand and icons throughout) and must make decisions about how to raise and feed cattle, run your employment lines, and set up advertising systems. Some of your options are pretty disturbing: there are a range of hormones and animal-byproduct-based feeds that you can use to bulk up the cows, for instance. You can bulldoze rainforest and steal land used to feed the local population in third-world countries. And if you overgraze pasture for too many years in a row, it will lose fertility and eventually become an unrecoverable wasteland. There are plenty of opportunities for villainy.

The press I’ve read on the game generally suggests that it is meant to make us all question McDonalds and similar corporations. Personally, I found myself feeling unexpectedly sympathetic for the corporation.

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