Virtual Protest Organization – A Play Journal Entry

*This is the continuation of a series of blog posts for my Games and Learning course. In this journaling exercise I am going to play social games and analyze the game mechanics, design, and play experience, to identify how the game can be applied to learning in formal or informal settings.

If Not Now When bannor

I have been following a breadcrumb trail connecting me to games that explore social protest and activism. I was inspired to look for these games because of a scholarly text critique I did in the last cycle of my Games and Learning class, which reviewed an independently produced video game that enabled the user to  destroyed a an object of intolerance in virtual space. The tumultuous political times we live in have motivated me to become more politically active then I have been in the past and seeing that games have found a place in the resistance has been eye opening.  A Wired magazine article linked me to five suggestions that seemed interesting example of activism games for my play journal. I tried out the games suggested by Wired and was particularly interested in If Not Now, When? (INNW), created for the 2017 Resist Jam by independent producer Ravynn.

INNW is a simulation game that puts the user in charge of a occupy style protest camp. The user has to make decisions throughout the day about how to delegate time and resources that support the cause and ensure the comfort (food, water, shelter) and safety for the members at the camp. The user is presented with a dashboard that shows the statistics for different camp supplies and options for decisions that are made three times during the span of one day in game.

If Not Now When dashboard

Simulating the organization of a protest encampment was awesome because I was able to experience some of the challenges that go into the organization of a similar protest but without the physical world consequences. For example before I played I knew that I had to make sure there was plenty of food and water for camp members but through game play I developed a broader understanding of the daily need to keep tabs on the consumption of supply and to ensure that there is enough supplies in case of emergencies. I also encountered issues that I would not have imagined, such as corporations “donating” products for PR reasons and the possibility of those corporations derailing the message of the protest.

If Not Now When message 4

While this simulation would not prepare a user to run out and organize a protest encampment on their own, it does open the possibility for the user to think about struggles and problems that will likely come up during a protest and enable the user to proactively problem solve for possible obstacles.  

Overall the game was enjoyable and enlightening, I did run into two areas that detracted from the seamless game play. First there were events that seemed to be triggered by particular days in the simulation, to pass the event specific levels of supplies were needed, but if the user did not have the right level of supplies instead of going to a game over screen the inability to pass the event created a feedback loop and effectively froze the game. Also the point of the in game protest is left vague which is a good feature for making the game appealing to anybody looking to organize a protest, however, this became problematic towards the end of the game where there is a final decision to make. I’ll spare the spoilers but how one reacts to the decision could have been developed throughout the game and not right at the end, setting up the possibility of the choice at the beginning would give the user the chance to weigh the pros and cons throughout the simulation and not just at the end.

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Virtual Protest Organization – A Play Journal Entry