Over the years, we’ve seen quite a few terrible attempts at using or creating games for propaganda purposes. We’ve seen dictatorships use footage from military games to ‘illustrate’ war victories. We’ve seen armies use games as training simulators for their wars. And well, we’ve seen all kinds of bad attempts to mock political opponents through the medium.
But the EU’s recent attempt at gamifying propaganda is worse than any of them, as well as hilarious for all the wrong reasons.
Because it plays out like a parody of the EU rather than a defence of it.
Seriously. You know the pro Brexit camps talked of the EU taking millions in tax dollars and not using it for anything important? Or how the many saved by not paying the organisation to be a member could be used to fund the NHS?
Well Taxlandia accidentally supports that exact hypothesis.
That’s because while the game talks about the importance of raising taxes to pay for services, winning during the game doesn’t actually involve spending the money on anything important. Oh, sure you could use it for services like a good prime minister or president would. You could improve the schools, fund more fire stations and help save the populace from natural disasters like floods.
But the game doesn’t encourage that at all. Instead, the ideal strategy the game encourages is…
Up the tax rate, then do sod all with the money.
That’s it. That’s the whole game in a nutshell.
Just up the tax rate to 50%, sit on your backside for eight years and hey ho, apparently you win the game. It’s almost like the title was designed by Nigel Farage and UKIP to illustrate why the EU is a complete waste of money.
Yet no, it’s official. It’s supposed to be a game put out to support the organisation and teach people the importance of taxes in a user-friendly way.
So, in that sense, good work guys. Your attempt at propaganda works like a shining endorsement of the Conservatives austerity plans.
But it doesn’t stop there. Oh no, it turns out that encouraging lazy governance is only one of the game’s many problems.
Indeed, in addition to saying that sitting around doing nothing for eight years is how to run a country, the game also seems to suggest that trying to improve your lot makes things worse too.
Really, it does. For instance, what do you think would happen if a company invested in education? Say, they built new schools and universities, inspired more teachers and trained people to be more productive members of society.
Well, a logical answer would be that things would get better. Crime would go down because people had other alternatives to make money, the economy would start booming because the more educated population would setup companies and come up with disruptive business models to improve society and the level of superstition would decrease as people stopped relying on stories of ghosts and magical beings to explain the world around them. All things you see readily apparent in Europe today.
Yet that’s not how it works in the game. Instead, building schools actually increases the crime rate and makes things worse! As does building fire stations, improving the police force or doing anything to make life better for your citizens.
It’s ridiculous, and basically goes as far as to imply the ideal role of a government is to line its own pockets at the people’s expense.
And instead of helping the European Union in a term of increased scepticism towards its structure and activity, it makes a brilliant case for its abolition or abandonment. All paid for by your tax dollars too.
Thanks EU game development teams. Not only have you wasted millions of euros on crap like this, but you’ve made a game that outright shoots down your entire organisation and suggests it’d be better if taxes didn’t exist to begin with. Quite the own goal for a propaganda campaign isn’t it?
In future, try and make sure your advertising supports your goals. Or better yet, just avoid propaganda altogether. Games are something to be enjoyed, not a medium to be perverted into a marketing tool for a political organisation.
Taxlandia App Listing (Google Play)
It’s been rumoured for a few days now, but after a bit of waiting, LEGO have finally confirmed it:
LEGO Dimensions is over. From here on out there will be no more expansion packs for the game, and thus another Toys to Life franchise bites the dust.
Here’s the tweet confirming it from the official LEGO Dimensions account:
As you can tell, there’s no reason given here. Presumably the game just wasn’t selling any more, and the people behind it thought there was no reason to continue releasing packs as a result.
So yeah, it’s done. But what do you think about the news? Are you disappointed that LEGO Dimensions is now dead? Did you hope it’d last a bit longer than Skylanders and Disney Infinity?
Post your opinion on the game and its fate in the comments below or on the Gaming Latest forums today!
LEGO Dimensions on Twitter
A couple of days ago, Humble Bundle (the digital distribution channel and games publisher) was acquired by IGN. Indeed, as stated by co-founder and CEO Jeffrey Rosen, the company sold to IGN because they believe IGN underatands their vision, as stated on the official blog:
We chose IGN because they really understand our vision, share our passion for games, and believe in our mission to promote awesome digital content while helping charity. I can’t think of a better partner than IGN to help Humble Bundle continue our quest.
This means that (according to the people at Humble Bundle), nothing should change here. IGN are fully on board with the idea. The service is still being run independently.
And in general, all is working as it should over at the company. That’s good for everyone if true. It’s good for Humble Bundle themselves, who get IGN’s financial and managerial support. It’s good for IGN, who get to own another great company.
Plus it’s good for the consumers too, who may get better deal as a result.
However, people are obviously very skeptical about it.
And you know what? They’re really not wrong to be.
Remember, the gaming industry has tons of examples of large companies buying out smaller ones and running them into the ground. Like EA, who’s killed dozens of studios since purchasing them. Or other large companies with similar reputations. Such as say, Activision, Square Enix or Konami.
Worse still, this pattern doesn’t stop in the gaming industry. Oh no, that’s only the tip of the iceberg here. Cause at the end of the day, most acquisitions just don’t work out very well in general.
Yeah, there are certainly exceptions to that rule. eBay buying out PayPal didn’t kill it, and Amazon’s purchase of Twitch seems to have worked out decently enough so far.
Yet those are merely the lucky ones. They’re in turn outnumbered by many cases where the buyout goes wrong. For example, you’ve got Internet Brands and everything they’ve bought. That killed WikiTravel, nearly killed vBulletin and wiped out numerous active forum communities in record time.
Then there’s the tech industry and startups. There you’ve not only got large companies buying and butchering successful companies, but companies buying them purely to hire the staff team. Or to shut down future competitors.
So it’s a common occurrence that people are (rightly) wary about in general. Add to this IGN’s questionable reputation, and you’ve got a situation that’s problematic at best, devastating at worst.
Still, it’s early days right now. And while IGN could screw things up, they haven’t done so just yet.
Let’s hope Mr Rosen is right and all goes according to plan in future!
Because a world without Humble Bundles (or with terrible ones in general) is not a world anyone in the gaming community wants.
What do you think about IGN buying Humble Bundle?
IGN Acquires Humble Bundle (Polygon)
A while back, I wrote about a bunch of 3D platformers that were either in development at the moment or coming in the foreseeable future. Based on this, I then said they were start of a genre revival, and that the 3D platformer may be seeing a grand return as a result of all the new titles coming out.
Unfortunately, that didn’t turn out to be the case. FreezeMe did okay, but its reviews were very much on the average end of the spectrum, with critics not really seeing it as a revolutionary title. Yooka-Laylee did some things well too, but again got mixed reactions from fans and critics alike.
And where some of the others were concerned… well it’s probably best not to talk about them. Anyone remember Fur Fun? Nah, didn’t think so.
Either way, the 3D platformer revival people hoped for didn’t seem like it was coming any time soon.
But it seems the tides may be changing here! Why? Because as my review round up shows, A Hat in Time has been well received by fans and critics alike!
For instance, Destructoid’s review gives the game a nice 8.5/10, saying it’s a game that ‘makes them smile when they’re playing’. Similar sentiments have also been expressed by Eurogamer (who said it was pretty magical), Digitally Downloaded (who said there’s little it can’t do as a classic platformer) and various others like them.
Heck, even the most negative review I’ve seen (Gamespot’s) was pretty positive. They gave it a nice average 70% score, saying the first level was a bit uninteresting but that it got much better as the game went on.
Video reviews are also pretty positive with the title. KingK’s review here outright calls it better than Yooka-Laylee and a good homage to 3D platform games of yore:
And Haedox’s review is an extremely positive one too:
It’s good news for the game all round, especially given how the title also sports a nice 90% positive Steam rating on top of all this.
This is in part because of something A Hat in Time does really well. Something which every review up to now has pointed out.
How it’s got a unique personality with interesting worlds and characters.
A unique personality with interesting worlds and characters.
Seriously, look up some of the levels and set ups in this game. You’ve got a haunted mansion you have to explore while avoiding an eldritch abomination in survival horror style. There’s a movie set level where you’re doing missions for two rival directors and whoever’s levels you do best on wins the day. Heck, there’s even a stage where you select missions by signing contracts with the devil in exchange for your soul. The game is just jam packed with creative worlds and memorable characters that sell the experience.
And that’s why this game has caught on whereas others like Yooka-Laylee and FreezeMe have faltered. It’s not just a good 3D platformer with solid controls and fantastic aesthetics.
It’s a 3D platformer with tons of original ideas and quirky characters to interact with. The Banjo-Kazooie or Conker’s Bad Fur Day of the 8th or 9th generation. A Hat in Time realises that 3D platformers are as much about the world as they are the gameplay.
So, where 3D platformers are concerned, this is the next great one. However, it’s not just 3D platformers A Hat in Time seems to be fighting for here.
It’s Kickstarter backed games in general. Cause let’s face it, recent Kickstarter releases have not been all that promising. Oh sure, Shovel Knight was amazing. And a fair few lesser known titles did well too.
But as far as the big projects go, it’s been flop after flop. Ouya? Failed. Mighty No 9? Failed. Yooka-Laylee? Well it wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t exactly a big success either.
Either way, Kickstarter has become associated with failed video game projects. With overbloated, overhyped games and systems that ended up being boring and generic upon their actual release.
A Hat in Time isn’t like this, and it may be what helps savage the service’s reputation as a whole. It’s a genuinely good crowdfunded game, and is part of a genre fans have wanted to return for years.
So, kudos to Gears of Breakfast. Not only did you make a good game that fans and critics have responded well to, but you may have helped salvage the reputation crowdfunding sites have gained after well-known failures in the market.
Let’s just hope the game does well in sales too!
For many years, the Steam storefront has become infamous for asset flips. Lazily made games using game development ‘kits’ without any original material, these titles have made searching for great games far more difficult than it ever used to be.
Indeed, it’s become such a problem that YouTubers like SidAlpha and Jim Sterling devote large portions of their channel to talking about the endless clones.
But it seems things are now getting better on the asset flip front! Why? Because as the title suggests, Valve have now removed a developer notorious for the practice from the Steam service, along with all 200 of their poorly done games!
No, you didn’t hear that wrong. These guys released 200 terrible games on Steam.
That’s because the developers in question (aka Silicon Echo) was notorious for using sockpuppet accounts on Steam to trick people into buying them without knowing who was responsible for the things. Here’s a two-part video series about the company and their practices from SidAlpha:
So yeah, the company has now been booted off Steam. That’s at least a small victory for people sick of these lazy asset flip titles, and proof that Valve does at least occasionally listen to their users.
But it’s still a drop in the bucket. Remember, Silicon Echo is just one company of many here. And while their sockpuppet antics may have drawn attention, removing them is only the start of what needs to be done. Valve now needs to kick other asset flippers and lazy devs off the service too.
Yes, they’ll lose some sales. Yes, that’ll mean the number of games on Steam will decrease for a bit.
Yet at the same time, they’d make Steam much better by doing so. Moderation is not a bad thing. It’s what keeps a service’s quality control up. It’s what stops a community degrading into complete crap. There’s nothing wrong with a company like Valve enforcing quality control standards on games sold via their platform.
So it’s time Valve realised this. A good service cannot accept everything, no standards required. If Valve wants people to enjoy using Steam again, they’ll need to say ‘enough is enough’ where low quality trash is concerned. Their original standards were partly the reason why people used the service at all, and their removal of said standards is why Steam is seen as such a dumpster fire today.
Congrats on removing Silicon Echo and their quality games. But now Valve needs to follow suit for the other hundreds of asset flips on the service too.
Only then will Steam become great again.