So somewhere on the internet I found a link to this game called The Republia Times (or just Republia) by Lucas Pope. The basic idea is that you are a newspaper editor in an oppressive regime whose family is being “taken care of” by the government. You are supposed to make citizens read the paper and make them very loyal to the government. That isn’t so hard, is it?
I am going to do a little bit of a Lets Play here. The game plays quickly, so I encourage you to go do it right now. But if you don’t want to, follow me along on my adventure.
So this is the opening screen. This gives you all pertinent information about the game.
After being a successful editor of the most oppressive paper in the world, I started getting weird little red lines and messages that showed up in my “feed” of stories. I just assumed they were redacted stories that the government didn’t need to see, but then this part popped up. “Please hear me. I am Kurstov, leader of the rebellion. We need your help.” I’m going to be honest: up until this point I had no investment in the game. My family, which I assumed was supposed to be my emotional connection to the diegetic world, just didn’t resonate with me. I didn’t care if they had privileges. But the rebels speaking directly to me actually gave me pause. I continued my job as I was supposed to, but I knew immediately that I wanted to do whatever I could to help the rebels.
The rebels eventually contacted me again and told me what I had to do: gotta make people hate the government. I immediately changed what I was doing. I didn’t have big stories about celebrity weddings; I had huge hunks of page dedicated to revealing the political reeducation of teachers and professors in labor camps. After the first day, my family began to lose privileges. They didn’t matter to me. They were faceless and did not speak to me directly. They didn’t have the color red to tantalize me. My family was the subject of objective statements told to me by my overlords, and besides, they were going to be safe when the rebels won anyway.
The rebels won. My family was killed. I am offered a new job. I don’t really know what I feel, but I understand the point that the designer, Lucas Pope, is making here. Here’s the new boss, same as the old boss. And I can get behind that. A radical change in the ideology of a structure isn’t necessarily going to change the experience of people on the ground. Think of it like the American democratic process. After I got to this screen, I smiled and thought about the Emma Goldman quote where she explains that women gaining access to voting rights is really only women making sure that they are enslaved.
And now it is The Democria Times. Democracy reigns. The job stays the same.