The Average Gamer

Indie Rock: To Build A Better Mousetrap

Better Mousetrap 2
Before we talk about this week’s game, I want to offer a public service announcement: If you use the self-service checkout at the supermarket, you’re a dickhead.

The folks at Molleindustria have Done A Politics again (as they are wont to do) and this time their sights are set on the capitalist industrial system, the process of automation’s impact on employment and the matchstick-house of emphasising profit over personal responsibility. And mice. And mice pretending to be cats.

Play it, then I’ll talk at you.

I used to believe we’d live in a world where automation would bring about a lack of necessity that we all work for a living. It had to, right? Why would we need to work if the machines can do it? That’s likely the same vision of a lot of people my age. We saw computers show up in our houses and they were good and eventually you could order things right off them without any need to go to a store. So there’d be no need for stores. And then the stores started shutting.

And then the computers were in our supermarkets, too, which let you pop in and buy a few things without really even bothering to queue up. And that was nice.

And then they started stripping away the manned checkouts.

I’ve been under-employed for a while. It’s a lot harder to find work in low-skill areas. Sure, there are a lot of factors which contribute to this, but I can’t help considering my chances might be improved by not having to compete with no gosh darn rowbit.

They (uh, the editors of wikipedia) call my line of argument the “Luddite Fallacy”. It’s wrong to think like this, I hear. The logic suggests that mechanisation isn’t bad for employment because jobs which are lost by mechanisation are quickly replaced by new industries related to production and upkeep of the new machines.

But… this game. This game does a pretty fantastic job at undermining that attempt at undermining.

Better Mousetrap AutomationThe first ending I got was the one where the unemployed masses start tearing apart the factory. And I thought that was basically the message of the piece. I thought the game portrayed an impossible system designed to inevitably fail; a lovely allegory for the eventual collapse of capitalism as it struggles to sustain itself against the will of an tired, informed and impassioned populace. I especially liked that it ends with all the mice dancing hand in hand while all the robots do the work.

I like that most because that’s an example of a game’s morals conflicting with its imposed goals. Even though it’s the best ending, it’s a failure. It’s bad that the underclasses rise up! It’s good when you’re able to retire with enough goddamn cheese to build a fuckin’ cheesy igloo.

On a further retry I went bankrupt attempting to keep my workers happy with their wages, unable to support the business. You realise that it’s less expensive to just replace anyone who stops working rather than improve their work conditions. I can replace you in a second, mouse, you’re expendable. There are 6 mice waiting outside who’d do your job for less pay. If you don’t like it, maybe you need a trip to the gulag.

The way I eventually won was to make mice at the top immediately start researching their replacements. I never paid them a penny more than their starting salary and as soon as their work-flow was suboptimal they were shit-canned immediately. Fuck ‘em. Who’s the cat here. Not them.

Basically what I’m saying is that when you’re at the supermarket and you use the self-service check-out you’re taking food right out of my fuckin’ mouth.