Monday, July 09, 2018

A Political History of the Future: Tacoma at Lawyers, Guns & Money

My latest Political History of the Future column discusses Tacoma, the follow-up to Fullbright's paradigm-busting exploration game Gone Home (see my review here).  Tacoma takes a very different approach from Gone Home's 90s-set domestic drama.  It puts us in the head of Amy, a salvage specialist in 2088 dispatched to the titular space station, to discover what catastrophe caused the crew to evacuate, and how they responded to it.  So far, so familiar, but as in Gone Home, Tacoma plays with our genre expectations, approaching its premise with a refreshing lack of melodrama or sensationalism, and exploring the human connections formed on the station, and how the disaster affects them.  It also, as I write in my column, gives us a panoramic view of life in this late 21st century future, where corporations have even more power than they currently do, and people find their lives, relationships, and happiness held hostage to the whims of a company's bottom line.
One of the points revealed by these conversations and email exchanges is how strongly the economic system in the game's future is tilted towards corporations. While money still exists in the game's world, it is heavily supplemented, and in some cases superseded, by loyalty points—either "customer loyalty", which locks consumers into purchasing from a single company, or "company loyalty", which discourages employees from moving from one corporate employer to another. The game is very smart in how it introduces this concept—it takes a few conversations for us to realize how commonplace and insidious it is, because most of the characters take it for granted. ... What's smart about how Tacoma introduces these ideas is how it avoids the obvious, dystopian spin it could have put on them ... while also making it clear how they curtail the freedom and happiness of ordinary people

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