The Average Gamer

Indie Rock: Apathy

I have opinions about politics. Because you aren’t my friend and we aren’t sitting down to dinner together, I’m going to share them with you.

I don’t think politics are very good. Any of them. Politics are a bullshit toilet for buttholes to live in. [What? – Ed.] If you do a politic then you can get out of town.

You’d think a video game about politics, titled “Apathy”, would probably reflect my position on getting important things changed and retaining the cultural progress we’ve already made, i.e. the constant abject misery of living in Cameron’s Britain.

It’s self-described as a satire, though, and I’m not at all sure what it’s doing to obtain that status. It’s either trying to challenge my understanding of the political process or further enforce it. I am, at least, able to confirm that it exists and displays a fictionalised account of the political process. I’ve seen it. I’ve played it.

You are a single person within a single district with a single representative. You are attempting to prevent terrible bills from being passed, or ensure that good bills go through. You can continually call your representative until they change their mind on an issue, but you can’t call any representatives in other districts, you have to bother your friends to support your stance and occasionally, even if they agree with you, attempt to make them care enough to act on that interest. There’s a small timer from the start of your campaign until the bill is voted on and it barely ever feels like enough to make a dent.

Each bill that the game presents you with is very poorly defined and presumably that’s because it doesn’t care to challenge your perception of the issues it covers, just the process by which it’s managed. That’s a lovely unintended irony, where you’re terribly informed about a piece of legislation and still doing your best to try and push it through. How are you forming your opinion to begin with? Are you reading the graffiti in a pub toilet? Or, the journalistic equivalent, the front page of The Sun?

Even though your efforts are sometimes futile, and I’m taking that as an intended point, there’s still a heavily idealised view pushed across regarding the way government works. It’s a universe where effort and awareness from constituents attempting tirelessly to sway a vote can, in theory, actually have an impact. Here governance is as simple as bending to the will of an impassioned majority rather than our real-world experience of politicians retaining often contrary ideologies to toe party lines and appease lobbyists in an attempt to retain a career.

Apathy2I said politics are bullshit toilets at the start of this. You can’t complain I’m coming across as a jaded lefty dickhead six paragraphs down the line.

A change in a friend’s opinion is signified by switching between red and blue (or the other way), which might otherwise have some political symbolism if instead of interest in passing or failing a bill it referred to party allegiance. It’s good that the game has avoided that pitfall, but since your prefered colour switches with your objective, it can be confusing trying to remember which colour you’re supposed to be frantically clicking in order to change.

Your actions are frustrating and laboured. The further away a friend is the longer it takes to impact their view, which seems more like an error in code rather than a real statement. You also can’t see if you’ve changed their mind until you move your mouse away and see the change in colour which wastes time and, again, doesn’t seem deliberate.

So is the game satirical in the sense that I’m supposed to start playing it enraptured with the unlimited fair possibilities of democracy and it slowly teaches me that my wide-eyed get-up-and-can-do attitude is unfounded? Or is it satirical in the sense that my perspective is challenged by the brief chance that everything comes together in the correct way and things can be altered for the better.

Or is it taking some weird kind of middle ground stance where I’m supposed to roll with the punches and accept that not everything I think is important is going to pass a vote.

Or (and I’m leaning this way like I’m drunk and using it as a method of support) is it not really satire at all and hasn’t entirely understood the concept? Apathy has left me feeling as insignificant as I ever was. If it was really trying to flip the current state of politics on its head then it would have probably shown a system working effectively. Ha Ha. Good Joke. Roll on snare drum.

I’d like to hear your perspective on this, because I’m stumped. Please put your comments below in the comment bit and I’ll read them and probably reply. Have a good week.