An interesting thought experiment and a good starting point for discussion as evidenced in this comment section.
A short game which depicts how we might reorganise the capitalist present into a postcapitalist utopia.
If you have feedback/comments, feel free to contact me by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @colestia3.
Music: "Ghost" by Onda Suave
[Note: Downloadable builds are provided here for sake of completion only. The game was designed to be played in-browser, so the standalone versions may be buggy or completely broken. Sorry about that...]
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An interesting thought experiment and a good starting point for discussion as evidenced in this comment section.
Hi, I’m nobody, and I’ll be doing a running commentary of my experience with the game.
Ok so we start looking at this society, which we are told is terrible because apparently we all know Capitalism is self evidently terrible. We can tell Capitalism is terrible because we’re sat in our comfortable centrally heated homes, using our consumerism perfected technology, during our free time were we are well off enough to not be working, to look at this game telling us Capitalism is terrible.
So what do we have here, the tutorial is telling me what’s wrong.
So the environment in this place is being destroyed by Capitalism, because as we know; socialist societies operate using only the cleanest of energy. They’re totally not driving around in 1950s vehicles running off pre-global warming discovery combustion engines, due to the lack of any driving force for technological advancement in their society. While in Western Capitalist countries they have wind turbines, solar panels, electric cars are gradually getting better…
In the name of environmentalism, I’ll be performing this review using a mini-PC that consumes less than 10 watts of power. Thanks consumerism for compacting a whole computer down into this neat little efficient package, but of course most people these days have even smaller computers consuming just 5 watts of power, sat in their pocket. So nothing special about my little box these days.
Extraction... because Socialism gets its resources from somewhere else? I’m curious how Socialism is going to create great abundance, without taxing our environmental resources. Capitalism’s solution is the pricing mechanism, rarer and harder to get materials are higher priced; which encourages markets to seek and invent alternative materials to keep prices low. But of course Socialism doesn’t have a pricing mechanism.
Ecological harm is externalised? I agree that polluting elsewhere isn’t a solution, but again what is Socialism’s green alternative that apparently Capitalism is unable to grasp? It’s easy to criticise a situation, but offering a functioning better alternative is a different matter.
Work is the leading cause of physical and mental illness? Well working conditions have advanced considerably since the 1920s, we’re not living under the same Capitalism that spawned the movements that led to the Soviet Union. While it’s not uncommon for people to become depressed due to a lack of meaning in their lives, seeking meaning is pretty high on the hierarchy of needs. You can only worry about meaning when all your other needs are being satisfied.
That said, what’s with the attack on people working? Do people not have to work under Socialism? That’s certainly news to everyone who has even the briefest understanding of history. If people don’t have to work under Socialism, who is producing all the goods and services needed to maintain human civilisation? Who is engaging in the creative thinking to improve said goods and services, and where is their motivation to do so; given apparently this society is going to transcend work? Guess I’ll have to wait and see.
Unemployment? Well apparently you’re going to transcend the need to work, so now not working is a problem? Unemployment is an inevitable consequence of progress, old jobs are made redundant; which make way for more modernised jobs. Which of course leads to…
Precariousness, but thus far human civilization has always produced enough jobs to keep unemployment levels to a minimum. You’re never going to fully eliminated unemployment, but most developed western countries have some form of welfare to keep those people alive between jobs. I’ve made use of it myself, and while it’s not a comfortable life it’s better than starving in the street. I’m curious how Socialism is going to eliminate unemployment, while also eliminating the need to work.
Workplace discipline is an odd one, should we not be disciplined and aim to be efficient? It means we are able to do more, in less time, with less resources. Should employees be able to slack off and check their Facebook feed during paid office hours? Even the Soviets were very strict on efficiency, if someone wasn’t pulling their weight they were “stealing from the people” so to speak. Because they didn’t own their own labour, it was the people's labour.
Unnecessary work? That’s another perplexing one, because you just criticised Capitalism for unemployment and being efficient. Now you are claiming Capitalism is being wasteful by creating jobs that don’t need to exist, which kind of contradicts their never ending pursuit of minimising costs and maximising productivity.
Travel, because travel isn’t going to exist in this Socialist world, what? Do they not have jobs to go to, but unemployment is bad!? I’m getting confused here.
Colonisation of time, again there is a lot of contradictory claims going on here. You seem to think Socialism is going to be able to do everything better than Capitalism, without any of the consequences. Work is bad, but so is unemployment. Efficiency is bad, but so is being wasteful. Now people will apparently be coming home from their “work” feeling well rested? Is work in this world somehow not going to tax human physical and mental energy reserves?
Education, well everyone is entitled to a basic education in modern Capitalist societies, which is beyond the dreams of just a century ago. We’ve managed to improve wealth and productivity to a point that youth have been freed up to become educated, were as prior the whole family was forced to work.
What you mean is there are higher levels of education, which cost too much to be delivered broadly across the population. Not everyone can go to Harvard, Harvard is a finite resource and people have differing abilities, maybe their goals in life don’t require a higher education? There is also the problem of qualification inflation, if everyone has a degree then that becomes the minimum standard. Jobs that previously didn’t require qualifications now do, not out of malice but in an attempt to filter through the applications. It would be ideal if everyone with the ability was able to go to higher education, but you need some system to distribute those resources. Cost is one way to filter those applications.
I admit this isn’t the best answer, but I have a lot to get through.
So now self discipline is bad?
Unpaid work, I take it you’re referring to the basics of life like raising children and maintaining your property? There are no transactions taking place in these scenarios, they’re not raising the kids on behalf of an employer; they’re raising their own children because they love them. This is self service and people should not be expected to be compensated for working for themselves. No one pays me to look after my hygiene, even though I am performing a service for all those around me by not stinking. There is no transfer of goods and services taking place when I look after my own life.
Empty apartments, so who is going to engage in the strenuous and labour intensive activity of building homes, which will then be given away for free? Work hurts physical and mental well being, didn’t you know. How are you going to compensate them for creating something of intrinsic value to society, at personal physical and mental expense, if the intention is the occupant doesn’t have to pay to live in it?
Luxuries are made to be enjoyed by the rich and desired by the rest? What are these luxuries? What are these things that the rich enjoy that the rest of society cannot, which would be approved of in your Socialist society? I can essentially buy all the things the rich can in a more affordable form, I just don’t need a private jet to get into work; the public transportation system is good enough. My smartphone doesn’t have to be gold plated, it works just fine without.
The basic needs for survival have to be purchased, well they do but that’s not technically true. The United Kingdom, America and many other developed countries have some sort of welfare system to look after people who are down on their luck. I understand that welfare is a Socialist system, but that just demonstrates Capitalism and Socialism doesn’t have to be exclusive. Most developed countries are hybrid systems in which they both operate.
Advertising, yeah it’s kind of necessary that if you wish to sell a product; that people are actually aware it exists. Socialist countries would have to inform their citizens that, you know, things exist. However in Capitalist countries we have this thing called competition, so advertising has to convince you to buy product B rather than product A. The choice at the end of the day is you, advertising cannot force you to buy anything; it can only make an argument for you to.
Waste, goods are designed to be purchased but not used, what? You know we do have regulations that require products to meet specific standards, and if they fail to meet that; the company can be prosecuted? Does waste not exist under Socialism? It certainly existed under the Soviets, there was no need to be efficient because people got what they were given. There was no choice.
Did I get everything? Can I finally start the game? Good.
So I have to click on things until they change into something else, which may affect other things elsewhere. But I cannot right click to get info on the changed state, did I just chop down all those trees and replace them with solar panels? Is that the preferred state? I’ve prevented ecological harm but I’m not really sure how or why.
Now the person in the apartment seems to be producing a smiley face, and listening to music, but I’m not sure why…
I just turned the roads into trains, we already have those in Capitalist society. Is the idea replacing roads with public transport? You know that already exists and we can choose between them? I don’t drive, I can go to work via train or bus, or boat but that’s expensive and slow.
I haven’t quite grasped the mechanics of this game yet. I click on things to make them better, but there is no explanation as to how or why they became better and how Socialism is responsible for this. I clicked on the unemployment section and now it’s a one way route upward… there is no explanation as to how Socialism has achieved this miraculous transformation. No one loses their job under Socialism? What, even if they’re bad at that job?
I just automated jobs with robots, so those jobs are gone. The person in the apartment is no longer happy, I assume that’s because he’s unemployed now. I clicked unemployment away, but now people have resumed being fired, I assume as a result of the competition posed by all those unemployed people chasing their jobs. Guess they’ll have to demonstrate they deserve the job more by actually being productive...
Clicking on work discipline turned it into one of those failed experiments to get employees to engage with each other, by forcing them to stare at each other all day. They’ve demonstrated that to be wrong because it makes people feel vulnerable, they’re stuck in the fight and flight response because they have no sense of privacy and security. So Socialism is applying old ideas that were demonstrated to be wrong? Nothing new there.
Clicking on solving basic needs has created unemployment again, I assume that’s because the government took control of providing basic needs; destroying all the private sector jobs involved in those areas. Making the apartment guy happy again has gotten rid of the trains… Ok I’ll use the right click linking system to find the relations now.
Ecological harm was prevented… somehow.
Basic income is provided as a right, so people are being paid to just exist. How this is being funded without placing a huge tax burden on wealth producing sectors, as well as acting as a disincentive to work, isn’t explained.
Consumerism for profit is bad apparently, even though the profit motive is what informs companies as to what consumers want but never mind. Somehow they know what people want without any means of consulting them…
All work has been supported, so I guess we’re going to pay people for performing basic duties in their lives… Again, placing a tax burden on the productive economy.
So apparently there is too much work to do, and they have solved this by placing maximum limits on working hours… In other news, my council has solved the problem of excess waste by giving everyone smaller bins… However...
For many people, there isn’t enough work! So we have both too much and too little work at the same time. Which I’ve apparently solved by guaranteeing everyone work, because governments can do that apparently.
But wait, maximum limits on work hours is conflicting with guaranteed work. Ecological harm is conflicting with all work being financially supported. We’ll try to sort these later.
Basic needs have now been provided as a right, because of course as we learned earlier; the environmental resources are finite… Guaranteeing resources is totally compatible with that…
Now I’ve apparently solved overproduction for the rich (because the rich are such big consumers…) by redistribution of wealth and assets. Sensing problems here, given there is little reward for working harder than the average chap as you’ll be taxed to buggery for it. Yet somehow there's an abundance of resources being produced to guarantee them to everyone, all without over taxing the environment… somehow.
Land was changed from a commodity to being held in commons, because it’s not like there is a long history of people not respecting what was held in commons… It’s just a defect of human nature, people don’t respect things that are owned by everyone. They litter in public parks, they don’t maintain buildings, they don’t invest their own limited resources in something they don’t have ownership of.
Here in the UK we saw an explosion of home improvement when council housing was allowed to be purchased by those occupying them. Because once they became private property, suddenly people started caring about them. No one invests their savings into improving something that can just be taken away from them.
I’m just clicking on things at this point and seeing what they enable/disable, reading the comments section I’m now supposed to match these…
So land being a commodity and basic needs are a commodity are linked by things being valued by exchange, which is fixed by… things being valued by their use… Do you know the problem with that? Because everyone values things differently and what we value as a society doesn’t always follow what you’d think it would be. Logically, doctors are worth more than actors. Doctors use value is much higher than an actor, yet, famous actors often earn more than doctors.
This is confusing to the use value argument, but makes sense when you factor supply and demand. Lots of people can be a doctor, but there is only one Morgan Freeman. That’s why Morgan Freeman gets paid more than the doctor, that’s why your celebrity of choice gets paid more than the doctor. Because you, yes you, make that vote with your money.
But the Socialist central planner isn’t psychic, they don’t know what you want; they only know what they think you need. So you get more doctors, and assuming this environment doesn’t imper their creation; your celebrity of preference buggers off somewhere that actually appreciates them. Assuming the socialists haven’t built a wall to keep people in.
Right so all work being supported is incompatible with ecological harm being externalised, which are solved by… The true cost of Capitalism is excluded from calculation? Oy, how much damage has historical attempts to implement Socialism caused, care to do those calculations? At least Capitalism has produced a functioning society, which is continuing to improve living standards and incentify progress. Socialism has yet to produce a demonstrable example that actually does what it says on the tin.
But of course everyone knows, Socialists never recognise their own history, because it’s never “real Socialism”... But Capitalism is responsible for everything, even when it’s state interference it is still Capitalisms fault...
Lack of work and too much work, claims the problem is labour is exchanged as a commodity, which is solved by… Labour not being sold. So you don’t have a right to sell your own labour? Who is working in this society? Who is producing the tangible wealth that is being consumed by all these people, magic automation tech that doesn’t exist yet?
Now this one is combined with the UBI, with wage labour being expressed to be the dominant form of work; as the apparent problem. So how are you going to solve the ‘problem’ of people earning something in return for their efforts, hmm? Labour is given from each in accordance to their ability… You haven’t explained what they get in return for their lifetime service, or are they just expected to work for the sustenance you are providing them? Because Capitalism offers them a lot more than just sustenance.
Ok let’s combined consumption not being subordinate to financial gain; with things are valued for their use. We get production is directed to profit through exchange, because apparently getting something in exchange for your production is a bad thing… Go on, what’s the solution? Production is directed to satisfy human need. Again, all these people working hard for your production, what are they getting in return for that? We are a tad beyond basic needs as a society, people want to work for more than basic survival. How are they performing all this labour without taxing their body and mind? Where is all this automation tech coming from without a market advancing towards it?
So is that it, no more combining, we reached utopia have we? I can’t see anything else to click on, everything that’s combinable appears combined. This didn’t actually feel like a game, it wasn’t even a puzzle, you just followed instruction. The hows and whys weren’t explained, we are just to accept the presented solutions. In much the same way that the citizenry of a Socialist country are to accept what they are given.
Where is the game in this? What do I do now, have I reached the end? A conclusion screen would have been nice. The argued solutions in this simply haven’t been demonstrated in the wild, Socialist countries are often terrible to live in, people flee to the Capitalist countries; not from them to the supposedly superior Socialist ones.
This is just yet another example of someone attempting to paint Capitalism as self evidently terrible, while offering no demonstrable better alternative.
They use the lack of perfection to argue the whole system is flawed, when there is no such thing as perfection, never mind from the Socialist system that has done nothing but repeatedly fail throughout history. If Socialism worked, we’ve have seen it by now. Capitalist countries wouldn’t be the dominant force on the planet; the naturally superior systems would have overtaken it.
Uh, the time I’ve spent going over this today and there wasn’t even a game in it. It might as well have been a powerpoint presentation.
That’s quite enough of that I think, I’m going to vote with my wallet and not support this one. There are actual economic simulators out there, which have actual gameplay, not simplistic propaganda masquerading as a game.
Interesting stuff. I definitely have some misgivings about capitalism, so it's pretty refreshing to see a game like this. I don't completely understand how it all works, and I think that could be helped by some tweaks. I think the game would be improved if you could see descriptions of the elements of society (buildings, institutions, concepts) after you've changed them. These descriptions could detail what they were initially and then what you transform them into. I think this would help people to understand what's actually happening in the game. I like the minimalist/low-poly look, but that also makes it difficult to discern what you're looking at.
Please read some stories of people who lived in a communist country.
Which model of socialism s this taken from? Not that it matters. It's been tried many times and always ends in massive loss of life on an industrial scale and the claim from socialists that "Ahh but, they did it wrong, if only they'd have done socialism MY way"... a conceit that is as hard to swallow as this game.
Great job with the game! And super cool to see it on Kotaku!
I haven't a clue what i'm doing, but i'm loving this nonetheless. Very addictive and well made game. Anyone care to point me to an idiots guide?
When you change the items and receive the little blocks/diamonds, remember to right-click the diamonds together! It'll help you!
Is this a joke? Is there some message I'm not getting? Communism is bound to struggle like capitalism is now. It always has. It's gonna have just as many problems, more or less. Sure, they might be different problems, but there are still going to be problems. That's why I genuinely wonder if this is some sort of joke. Communism isn't going to bring us utopia, it could even bring us dystopia. I'm not saying that's going to happen, I'm just saying it's a possibility. Capitalism with UBI is seemingly a WAY better option than just communism.
I would've liked the game better if at the end everything just started to turn bad like how the society was at the beginning of the game, but in different ways. Like instead of people starving because of capitalism, people are starving because of communism. And your goal at that point would be to turn the society back in to a capitalistic one. After that inevitably turns bad too, you just keep going back and forth between capitalism and communism, endlessly trying to find utopia but it never comes. The game wouldn't have an end.
But that's just what I think of the political message. I think the game itself has a nice art style. I like the blocky minimalist design of things. The gameplay, well there really isn't any, but I know that's not the point of this game. I do think trying to find everything to click on gets a little annoying, though. Some stuff is kinda hard to find and other things you don't really notice if they change back.
Anyways, if you disagree with me, please explain why. I would love to have a discussion.
Historically society hasn't progressed into a new system, then regressed into the previous system cyclically. Different societies are qualitatively different, not merely different arrangements of quantitative variables that all add up to the same sum; there are certain arrangements that one can regard as better than others. It's true that communism won't be a struggle-less, problem-free utopia, but I regard it as a better arrangement of society and as the next step in historical development after capitalism.
You just said a whole lot of nothing. You say it's better but you never gave a reason why. So... Why?
I wasn't arguing for communism over capitalism; the main issue I took with your post was the stupid ahistorical assumption that communism and capitalism are two sides of the same coin, that the two could ever interchange or revert between eachother. Communist society comes about by the movement to abolish capitalism, a movement generated by the contradictions present within capitalism. If communism isn't the end of history, then what follows it will emerge out of the contradictions present within communist society and generate something qualitatively different both from communist and capialist society.
"Thee main issue I took with your post was the stupid ahistorical assumption that communism and capitalism are two sides of the same coin, that the two could ever interchange or revert between eachother. " Hahaha! Ahistorical, huh? Wanna check how many countries changed to capitalism after the collapse of the Soviet Union? Russia, for example. And while you may argue that the Soviet Union wasn't communist, it seemingly got closer to communism than anything I can think of, which was reeeaaaaallly close.
The USSR was not communist. It was not close to being communist. It was not progressing towards communism. If you think that the USSR was reeeaaallly close to communism, then you have a completely inaaccurate understanding of both the USSR and communism. Only a few minutes reading the Wikipedia articles on communism and the USSR would show how demonstrably false you understanding is. Considering that you are apparantly too lazy to look these things up before bringing them up, I'll help you by posting links below.
You keep saying communism, but this is about socialism. So basically, yeah, you missed the entire message... They could say Socialism inevitably leads to Communism which is irrelevant to this topic and I don't necessarily believe.
That said, your entire rant is about a completely different subject, Communism. Which is in fact, not Socialism.
Also, if you had finished the game, you would see it does revert back to Capitalism in the end. Once you've managed to change all of the pieces of Society to Socialism the everything begins to shift back. Because in order to change everything you have to juggle certain policies, you can't have them all. But with a tedious balancing act, you can achieve Utopia. Once the person or peoples tirelessly balancing everything get tired, or become complacent with the benefits of their utopia (The player does nothing because there is nothing to do). The policies begin to shift back, either due to greed or some other force, which in turn reverts the entire city back to Capitalism.
I think the point of the game is to show that a utopian society is possible with Socialism, but it is a tireless effort and people will inevitably become complacent once "perfection" is achieved and the "greed of men" will seep back into society and slowly revert everything back to capitalism.
Unless I missed something, which is entirely possible, the society you build in the game seems to be a society that runs on communism. Also, if the society genuinely does revert back to capitalism at the end, I must have not gotten there as I couldn't find anything else to click on, and I searched for a while. Even if it does though, I specifically said it should do it because the society turns to crap after it changes to communism, or socialism if that's what it is, and in order to try and obtain Utopia, you switch back to capitalism, and then that goes bad too, so you have to switch back, and it keeps going forever. Though, that's just my opinion on the message and I don't think effects the overall quality of the game. Also, you said that this game shows it's possible to achieve a Utopian society with socialism. No it doesn't. Someone could make a game like this, but instead of going from capitalism to socialism, you go from socialism to capitalism and you achieve Utopia that way. That game wouldn't show capitalism is the way to achieve Utopia, would it?
Good game, but I don't think that jobs should be a right. People don't want to work, they want to live
this is a great game...it's kind of depressing, haha, realizing nothing cant happen without sacrifice...but it's such a great game. thank you for your hard work and thank you for making this available to everyone!
It kinda sounds like you didn't use the feature where you can make changing something not cause something else to become capitalistic again by connecting them to the underlying issue...
Interesting piece. I like how it explains why it's possible to replace/improve a few things under capitalism, but that you'll be fighting an uphill/unwinnable battle unless you also fix the underlying assumptions and systems.
I guess it begs the question, though: what actual policies should we put in place, or what action can we take, to "click the gems"?
Amazing game. I wish it was this easy to fix problems in real life.
This game is one of those games that nudges the limits of what we think a game can be, which is always interesting. I really like how you slowly build the issues into simpler, but bigger ideas. It's obvious that solving these issues is harder than a click, but I accept that it's not what the game is about. This was a really expressive game overall. I for one was already for socialism. I wonder how I would have reacted if I was a capitalism supporter. I did see some ppl in the comments say stuff about communism, when this is clearly socialism. This showed nothing about everyone getting the exact same things. I understand that this is an expression of your views as an individual, but I think an interesting concept would be choice, because as far as I can imagine there is no perfect society. Maybe you do envision a perfect society. Not saying it was strictly worse to not have choice. Just an idea. Nice aesthetics too. I would have liked the text snippets to stay a little longer, so I could calmly read them. Unity was a good choice of engine. I thank you for this experience.
i really like the concept and how one problem leads to another but can be solved.
I like the slow build and the way you can combine abstracts to get to bigger issues!
do you actually believe in this stuff are you insane
communism doesn't work
(or are you meming)
wtf are you talking about capitalist pig!? communism is the only true way to live!
Death to capitalism!
Fucking commies! get off this American site and go live in north korea you cuck
TFW you use a country that doesn't even call itself communist anymore to own the lefties.
Why are games like this even on this site. I hate games posted like this, :/ it ruins itch.io.
Why do you even care if you don't like them? They're here, they don't violate any rules, and they're made by indie devs who have their own opinions and views. If you can't handle leftist views and games, just press the red X button and go back to your day.
Hey DankLord. If you can't let your hyper republican + conservative views get challenged, then go back to whatever safe space you came from. A conservative that needs a safe space? How interesting...
Oink Oink capitalist pig oink oink
do you live in a capitalist country? if so, capitalism got you that device that you're using to comment
Just because it's possible to purchase that device in a capitalist country doesn't mean the same can't be done in a socialist country.
I love anticomms who use this argument, it's so reductionist and worthless. 'You can't criticize capitalism if you participate in it,' like it's some great 'ownage'. Somehow we can't build personal computers or smartphones in a different economic system? Please.
loren0701 This site isn't even necessarily american. Typical fuckboi behavior to think america is basically the whole world.
I mean, the game is an exercise in "Solving" Capitalism. A lot of the switches needed to complete the game are just magical on/off switches unrepresentative of the real world. I'd assume it's satire.
10/10. Great puzzle game
Just one more dream.
Loved the message but after getting the four main GEMS I felt I was stuck.
Is there supposed to be a "Arrived @ Utopia" message?
Glad you liked it! The background colour should change when you've transformed all the basic elements and all parts of the city.
I'm not sure what I'm missing, I've clicked everything but nothing else in the city seems to need changing. Doesn't seem like I finished the game though, the gems turn back into grey blocks after some time.
....I have no idea what's supposed to be going on or how it relates to the subject matter of the game.
I really like this game, good job!