After Cambridge Analytica, this game about government surveillance feels quaint

It can be hard to find time to finish a video game, especially if you only have a few hours a week to play. In our biweekly column Short Play we suggest videogames that can be started and ended in a weekend.

What happens if the government can dig up information about you and use that information to discredit you? Not because you violated any law, but because you simply did not like what you were saying. This is the central idea of ​​ Orwell: Ignorance is strength. It's a continuation of 2016 Orwell: Keeping you under surveillance a game about how much you're willing to invade the privacy of someone on behalf of the government in the name of security. The sequel diverges slightly, making you invade again the privacy of someone in the name of the government, but in order to discredit them in social networks.

Both games are played through the interface of a fictitious research and surveillance program called Orwell, run by a country called La Nación. The software is powerful, but somewhat limited, allowing the user to only explore the information that is considered relevant to the case in question. This data is included in a dossier that is shared with an advisor who can draw conclusions about the data and act on them. The data added to the file also opens new documents and websites to examine as the program considers them related. In world fiction, Orwell is built in this way to be the best possible ethical scenario to invade the privacy of people. On a more practical level, it also serves as a way to prevent the player from feeling overwhelmed.

The events of the two games are actually held concurrently. In Ignorance is Strength you can get your saved data from the first game so that the events and choices you made in the original occur in the same way in the sequel. Not only does this help make the world of these games feel more accomplished, but it also has seemingly huge consequences in some of the subsequent plot points of Ignorance is Strength . I killed a character I might not have if I had stopped an attack in Watching.

The points of divergence for these games are in play and in tone, as well as a new mechanics introduced in The last episode of Ignorance is Strength . Keeping an eye on you constantly asks you what you're good at when it comes to invading people's privacy to be safe and possibly save lives, while you go crazy using this incredibly powerful and invasive tool to try to stop to the terrorists. Ignorance is Strength lacks this same level of ethical dilemma. Instead, you're basically helping a very obscure government department to abuse the system to suppress someone they do not like.

You do it in the last episode of the game using a new system that this secret group has added to Orwell called Influencer. The system allows you to essentially build a tweet to counteract, or attack, the statements made by the blogger. These tweets are then disseminated through the Influencer system that somehow increases their signal to get the tweets in front of more people. It is not clear exactly if it does this with bots, real people with many followers who work for them, or if they just have a way of manipulating the site's algorithm to get their information in front of more people. However, they work, the point is to discredit and embarrass the blogger to the point of losing all his followers.




When I first sat down to write this review, everyone else in the newsroom Verge was watching Mark Zuckerberg testify before Congress. I was trying to explain what Facebook is and how something like Cambridge Analytica could get so much private data so easily. In the shadow of this, Ignorance is Strength feels strangely picturesque. Because, like Keeping you under surveillance, is based on the presumption that we should worry about the government violating our privacy to collect data, and then on Ignorance is force using that information to manipulate social networks and turn people against you.

This feels like a minor concern when in the real world we observe that people knowingly give away their information to corporations to receive better targeted ads and social media publications, while other groups use that information to try to maliciously manipulate people through social networks. Although it is difficult to criticize Ignor ance is Strength too much to not address these things, as each of its three episodes was released two weeks apart from February 22. The final episode was published six days after the Cambridge Analytica scandal and a day later Mark Zuckerberg apologized for Facebook's failures on CNN, not exactly long enough to make allusions to the game.

But that does not mean it's not worth playing. The narrative style of play initiated in the first Orwell remains really interesting and attractive, as is its attempt to raise concerns about how governments could silence voices that are contrary to their agenda. At a different time, or if I lived in a different country, I could see that his message was more appropriate. But for someone who lives in the USA UU In 2018, the influence of the game on privacy and the influence of social networks feels ripe for further exploration.


Orwell: Ignorance is Strength was created by Osmotic Studios. You can get it Steam Humble Store and GOG for $ 9.99 on Windows, Mac OS and Linux. Approximately three or four hours are needed to complete.