Last month, I published a small Twine game called You Are Jeff Bezos. In that you wake up in the body of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, and continue using every red cents for his name.
That's it. That's all the way. I mean, it's also a frame story where you fly the police and try to crawl a sewer. And a hidden end involving a hedgehog.
But basically it's all.
The game started like a joke and it should probably have been such, but people made the mistake of encouraging me. I wrote it in four days. Bezos money is measured as floating currency instead of assets because I would not take the time to model anything more complex. I collapsed "cover image" used for its store page in about two minutes, using standard fonts and a Creative Commons logo. It has no business that stands together with all these polished and beautiful games on the itch.io storefront. I have perhaps expected five people to play it.
But here we are: 110,000 views, recipes on Vice and Newsweek, and a humble number of donations later, I have to admit that I might have turned something on. I've heard from teachers who showed the game to their students. It is apparently the "best modern agit plug" someone has ever seen and more than one player called it "one of the best horror games ever made." Friends praised it as socialist practice.
Now that the 15-minute fame has turned off, it's really not hard to understand why the case worked. Roughly everyone wants them to have more money to burn and relatively few people think it's okay for a rich man like Bezos to waste money as a private space holiday while their own employees live on food stamps. And yes, that helped me launch that same day, the Mega Millions jackpot hit $ 1 billion.
I do not really consider spillsocialist, much less effective agiteprop. Anti-capitalist, perhaps, in a vague and incoherent way. But I know better than assuming that just because I had not put up with a particular intention in my writing does not mean it's not implicit in the text. And it refers as a tweet about the communist manifesto and Monday night RAW . In other words, I validate all of your headcanons, even though I do not agree with them.
Although I spoke, I wrote "You Are Jeff Bezos" because when I feel filthy and useless (as I said, I'm out of a job and feel that the last three years of my life were used in creative suspended animation), I like to make things for people. So I wrote a power fantasy that takes massive real social problems and reduces them to some round numbers.
Puerto Rico? You can fix it. Pay your friends student loans? Easy. Solve Flint, Michigan, the water crisis? Pocket change.
I hoped that some friends would play the game and feel, at least for a few minutes, that they were out of the hole the community had forced them to dig. To rewrite the title of another Twine game that (as far as I've been able to Google) does not even exist in a functional state online anymore: All I wanted is that my friends should be absurdly powerful.
I think it's talking to how frustrated people are that the game exploded the way it did. But I do not think it's simply because Bezos is easy to hate and everyone likes a good power fantasy. It's not that the earth cries out for a billionaire with a conscience, as if it could solve even a fraction of our problems. It's not even that Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun is one of the best anime of all time, and deserves another season (though it's objectively true).
I think you are Jeff Bezos resonance because at a certain level most of us know that the money is a shitty game we never asked to be taken on and as long as most of the world plays it, it's almost impossible for some of us to opt out. If at least it worked well, it may not be so bad, but you do not have to be socialist or really anywhere on the political left to see that it does not – and do not have long. It is a poorly balanced system, full of providers, and the opposites are clearly sleeping.
Then I made a game that basically starts you with an infinite money cheating. And instead of earning money, all you can do is get rid of it.
But really, if you are Jeff Bezos communicating something, I hope that private wealth really is just a terrible way to solve problems. There are many things you can not do, even with Bezos money. I included the $ 1.5 trillion for US student debt in the beginning to illustrate this, but in fact, you could not pay it yourself with the total amount of the 10 richest people in the world. It's almost like our ancestors found out that there is a point at which individuals are sucking to fix the nap and you actually need to organize on a fairly large scale to handle certain things.
It is a saying usually attributed to Fredric Jameson or Slavoj Zizek: "It is easier to imagine an end to the world than an end to capitalism." That is why I really look like the term "millennium" with all its apocalyptic harmonics. Especially when I hear we've killed another industry. We may not be able to end capitalism on our own terms, but by gods, we will try to take it down with us.
The money is fake and villain. My game is also fake and villain. It uses simple math in extremely unrealistic ways, and it is a scene where Amazon Delivery Drones try to kill you. If it were up to me, I would not have picked this thing for (uh i hate this expression) go viral, but I can not deny there are legitimate reasons why it did.
Go out and become absurdly powerful and help others to do the same.
Kris Ligman is an author, editor and accidental game developer living in one way or another in southern California. You should hire them before anyone else does.
(This post was originally displayed on Unwinnable.)