John Alexander Espinosa
To Build A Better System Of Oppression
When we talk about video games we tend to talk about the gameplay, the graphics, the story, and how the game works out as a whole. We look at it at face value and we don’t really question the sub-text most of the time. In games like “To Build A Better Mousetrap” all these aspects of Gaming show us an excruciatingly powerful understanding of not just what’s happening in a game, but also what’s happening in our society.
In “To Build a Better Mousetrap” you play as a mouse that dawns a cat head, and is placed at the top of a series of conveyor belts. Each conveyor belts has a job, one for concept construction, another for product construction, and another for worker mice who want a job. You drag around mice, create new technology, create new product, while making sure your mice are paid well and you don’t go bankrupt. You also need to make sure all the worker mice don’t destroy the conveyor belts and rise up against you destroying the entire model of capitalism in the process.
This is the kind of game Mattie Brice would love, since instead of parsing out the game itself until we find any inkling of information about capitalism, we see that the entire game is about capitalism. At the start of Brice’s article Our Flappy Dystopia, she states how “any critique or reporting on games that doesn’t include an intersectional perspective on the presence of capitalism in games is incomplete”. She would very much like the breakdown of how this game conditions the player to understand that: if a player wants to win they must take all the workers and work them to create machines to take their place, then fire everyone, so the player can win by having their mouse go into retirement and automating the entire production and concept line. She would also like the ‘fail state’ where the mice revolt and put the CEO in jail, automating the factory, and everyone lives in prosperity, except for the CEO.
According to Brice, “We, as global, notional, and artistic communities, justify a lot of shitty things on the premise of making money”. I’m not entirely sure if a capitalist state would take their workers and place them in jail, but not before paying them to automate their work; if anything that sounds more like a dictatorship run by a fascist government.
Perhaps that is something the game wants to say to the player: that when it comes to a system based on making profit, and exploiting others to make that profit, there’s a fine line between seeing this system as either capitalist, or fascist. We can also ask ourselves if it is the CEO mouse, that is a sort of dictator, who holds power over the other mice. We can also ask ourselves if the CEO mouse isn’t the dictator with power over the mice, but instead the players themselves are the dictator who has control over the system. We can also ask ourselves if we are actually the driving force behind the system, and by letting the system fail, we win the game.
Brice, Mattie. “Our Flappy Dystopia.” Mattie Brice. N.p., 31 Aug. 2014.
Web. 17 Feb. 2017.
To Build a Better Mousetrap (Molleindustria 2014)