Jack Boyles takes a look at indie title Obviously Inappropriate Content…
“There must be something in books, something we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.”
― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
Censorship has always been an issue with the game industry; from the days of Mortal Kombat and Night Trap to Grand Theft Auto and South Park: The Stick of Truth. However, it does feel that video games are another convenient scapegoat, and they always will be if we keep shrugging. Pieces of entertainment that change people into the ‘violent, anti-social demons that are here to corrupt your children and loved ones’.
Yet we don’t question society itself not nearly enough on real issues, the fake news phenomenon, proxy wars, news narratives, religion, politics, governments who in reality couldn’t care less, the complete lack of proper workers’ rights and investment, austerity, appalling homelessness; these things that influence our lives and behaviour; people are defined by their experiences.
Appropriate then, that a game is being developed about censorship in video games…
Obviously Inappropriate Content is an Orwellian 2D Shooter Job Simulator. You play a 2D action game which cuts to a desktop mode in which you receive emails. The emails will give you tasks within the 2D game mode, like to screenshot swear words, for example, that you upload in desktop mode.
Think, ‘Metal Slug’ meets ‘Papers Please’. But why, as the player, are we doing this? Well, I’m going to tell you in the next paragraph.
The government is ruled by ‘The Supreme Leader’, who enforces regulations to encourage a positive lifestyle upon the country. You play as a game tester; your job is to censor the videogame in conjunction with the government’s regulations. Throughout the game, the regulations become more frequent, vaguer and longer. However, the company you work for have their own interests at heart that are in opposition to the government. It’s your job to censor enough to keep the government happy, while still maintaining the trust of your company. Your choices will determine the outcome of the game.
The 2D shooter section is the game you are testing called ‘Ural Death Machine’. You run from the left side of the screen to the right, shooting enemies and throwing grenades; dealing with waves of enemies and boss battles such as helicopters. These sections of OIC could be a standalone game. It may lack the finesse of other run and gun games, it still plays fantastically well. Only for that enjoyment to sap when you come across a ‘glitch’ or something you must censor. It really portrays how I imagine game testing is; a mixture of excitement and tedium.
Then you have the desktop mode, in which you receive and respond to emails or messengers from various staff members and government authorities. It’s here you submit your findings, acquire objectives and sustain feedback from either company or government.
Due to the desktop mode, the game (for now) requires the use of a mouse though for the platforming sections you can use either joypad or keyboard. This could be an issue for console porting if an alternative can not be found.
It’s a rarity that we come across games that try and say something worthwhile. Based on the developer – Shuaiying Hou – his own experience of censorship, with the goal of the game to express the effects of censorship within the industry and society.
In my opinion, the triple AAA industry is still making ‘mature’ games that are actually aimed at children. It’s refreshing to see a culture of developers push the medium in a respectable way.
As a fan of dystopian/political satire/social commentary in my video games such as BioShock, the Oddworld series or Deus Ex; it’s great to see a game put you in the shoes of someone who must make that decision.
Someone who asks themselves, is this right? A playable demo can be found here.