PEGBRJE: American Election and Bird Bakery
Both aren’t games per say, but both will give some extremely wild experiences nonetheless.
Apologies for not getting this out on Friday, so I’m submitting it on a holiday instead, and boy howdy is the first one a doozy.
American Election is a visual-narrative experience made by Gary Buchanan, writer of many games and projects out of the United Kingdom. This tale, however, is one of a harrowing time — we are witnessing the simple story of one Abigail Thoreau and her work as a campaign assistant for a presidential candidate of the United States.
Let’s get some of the non-spoiler aspects out of the way. American Election is very much a narrative adventure in which text appears on screen accompanied by a still image for every chapter. As Abigail Thoreau players will have decisions to make that fall in to one of two categories: either the decisions are there for pacing and timing while only having a single selection, or there are multiple choices to select from that can alter how the narrative flows. Each section is divided in to chapters, each named for different reasons, which help to separate the themes and ideas as the plot flows while also being able to break away from the main ‘plot’ and delve in to some contextual backstory or side plots.
It’s not a spoiler, or even a secret, that this game is about the American Election of 2016 — there’s no avoiding that, it’s in the name for crying out loud. Of course one should expect this to be a harrowing tale of division and disgust, as even to those of us on the outside it was clear that this specific election was a breeding ground for fear and hate. Of course this title doesn’t name those that ran by their given names, instead giving them monikers, but the ideas that are instilled by one specific candidate in Truman Glass get the point across quickly. Thing is, this isn’t just a tale about the events of the election and who ran, but the story of one specific individual who was caught up in it of her own free will, and this is what makes it utterly terrifying.
Here is where the spoilers start.
American Election is less a tale about said Truman Glass’ election and more about how players interact as one who has been caught up in the campaign itself. Abigail Thoreau is an ambitious lady, at least she can be if players wish her to be, but the fact is that she wishes to be a campaign manager and assistant to Truman Glass. What follows, however, is a terrifyingly human breakdown of what makes individuals side with those that so obviously wish to destroy others. I knew for a fact what was going on, I’d witnessed it all, yet a part of me was initially curious as to where this campaign would go when first starting out. I wanted to see what the campaign was like under the hood of the madness, even if I knew what to expect before it even happened. Yet the farther I found myself witnessing the events, the deeper I had to dig myself to ‘prove’ that I was loyal to the cause, and all it took was one single confrontation with Glass himself to make me realize that I had gone too deep. Abigail was no longer just a woman wanting to stake her mark on the political world, but a deeply involved member of a movement to ‘take back America’ no matter the cost. From there it spiraled constantly, I felt as if nothing I said could stem the bleeding; small mistakes of the past suddenly became betrayals, comments became weapons, and everything Abigail thought she believed in was eroded until there was nothing left but the vitriol of the online world at her doorstep. She had been removed for many things, and I had done this to her to sate my ‘curiousity’.
Even that isn’t entirely the truth, the more I look back on the tale that Abigail experienced, for I wasn’t just curious about how the political system motivated people but how it motivated those who one would expect to be vehemently against it. As a member of the LGBT, Abigail was not the ‘normal’ member of the group, yet Truman personally made her feel welcome regardless of his exclusionary rhetoric. He wanted her to help him lead the people, yet saw humans as nothing more than animals. Her words were encouragement and he trusted her to write his speeches, only to derail them and twist any meanings of goodwill against her. It was manipulation, and I fell for it hook, line and sinker.
This is the heart and core of American Election, how easily it is for people to be manipulated by individuals simply because of their own reasons. There is no one unifying reason for why people would follow one such as him, for we all have our own selfish reasons to do so no matter how good our initial intentions may have been. Abigail lived through a life of hardship and distrust amongst her own family, and just when she thought that she had gotten everything she ever wanted her entire livelihood was thrown in her face and used as a tool to remove her once she was no longer as ‘useful’ as she once had been. There is no winning in this style of political game, for any not selfish enough will be chewed up and spat out on to the side of the street. Hell, even the selfish were chewed up early on. No one survives in a digital political scene when the main motivator is fear.
At least, this all happened during my playthrough. Perhaps yours will be different, perhaps you may grow a spine and find a way out early on. Stick up for what you believe in as Abigail, find happiness once again. Or you might end up shrinking away from confrontation such as myself, and witness the world slowly pull you apart until there’s nothing left.
American Election is a harrowing experience not because it perfectly outlines a gruesome election process but how it humanizes those that are on the ground pushing for things they may not exactly believe in. It forces you to witness the slow decay of a person from the inside as they see everything they’ve worked for, put stakes in to and tried to build up get dismantled from the inside by those they thought were helping. Abigail is not a hero, nor is she a villain; she’s just a human making decisions within a world demanding a black and white viewpoint, regardless of her intentions for good or bad. How it ends up is up to you, but one thing is for certain; nobody wins but Truman Glass. Nobody.
This is not a game, really, but I wanted to feature something fun after that existential dread. So here’s Bird Bakery by Sebastian Scaini, a game developer based out of Canada who has a seriously large catalogue of small simulation-centric titles. This is one such of those titles, for players will simply get the ability to create their own bird.
It features many bird based customizations, such as what they are coloured, what their legs are like, and what they are wearing — or in the one above’s case, wielding. It’s silly, it’s fun, and it comes with a soundtrack that fits the backdrop perfectly as you customize the backdrop that you want the bird to have. Afterwards, download it and put it where ever you want, because it’s your bird that you baked. Good job!
Seriously, this being put after the one above was a god send.
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