Pointless Nonsense

Posted in video games by Bill on June 27, 2017

Orwell had been on my steam wishlist for a while, since it showed up as recommended for me and hit a lot of tags I like (Sci Fi, choices matter, story-rich) and sounded interesting. I’m guessing it was due to Her Story, which has a somewhat similar format of revealing a story by hunting through a computer for clues. But instead of Her Story‘s video database, in this one you take the role of an contractor employed by a government surveillance group to search the web, snoop through people’s emails and chats and phones and computers, and provide relevant data to the government. I guess in the interest of not being too intrusive, they want only the contractor to see all the personal info, and you choose what snippets to send to the government. This turns out to give you a lot of power, since by selecting the right things out of context, you can give an entirely wrong impression.

The story unfolds about terrorist bombings designed to draw attention to the surveillance state, and a protest group that seems to be linked to the bombings. It’s an ok story, but given that you’re reading through webpages and listening to phone conversations (not really listening, watching text that the game tells you is a phone conversation), you start to feel involved, and I think that elevates an ok story to something a little better.

I do kinda wish they had voice actors for the phone conversations, some of the text scrolled too slowly (realistic for a chat session, but since the game could just spit it all out for me, it was annoying that I read so much faster than they type), and the interface for uploading data to people’s profiles wasn’t the best, but I did enjoy the experience. And it was weird to go from feeling like “yeah fuck big brother!” to “these anti-government activists are kinda douches” and back several times. And even though it very intentionally tries to be relevant to the real world and draw parallels to real events (even though it takes place in a fictional city in a fictional country), I don’t think it really has anything to say about the privacy vs. security debate. If anything, it seems to think that if you dig deep enough you’ll find shitty things out about most everyone.

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