Orwell

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Where do I even begin with Orwell.

First things first, I really enjoyed the gameplay of the game, even though it’s not THAT interactive. You play as an investigator and your role is to trawl through pages of various websites and social media for datachunks. These datachunks are highlighted pieces of relevant information on the pages. Some are in conflict with each other, and you have to determine which is more in line with the narrative you’ve created for the targets you’re investigating. There are some that are quite clear cut, like there’s been a bunch of factual information that makes one of the datachunks seem quite unlikely but others are very vague. Vague enough that they could go either way, this is where your interpretation comes in.

Now, I recommend reading everything through because while you can just play the game from just reading the important datachunks and understand what’s going on. You, however, miss the context of the words being used and you’ll encounter situations where you you might incorrectly label a target as “dangerous” and a “terrorist”. I made that mistake during my first playthrough. I played so aggressively, not really reading through the information. I just assumed the worst of people and ended up making some terrible choices, with some grave consequences.

But that’s the point of it, isn’t it? You can’t correctly determine who a person is based on some tidbits of information that they’ve chosen to reveal. They could be lying or they could be telling the truth. A sentence’s meaning can completely change based on how it’s said, what tone is used, what their body language is and what bits of the sentence are emphasised. Because I assumed a person’s motives based on how they conducted themselves in a form that is lacking most of the conventions of a proper conversation, I misread the situation.

It makes you think about the information you’ve put out on the internet via the various social media outlets. Did you know that if you register a website, all your personal information is available to a whois lookup? You can take those details to find out where a person lives, what their house looks like, what their email is, and what other sites the person has signed up to with that email. Via the other sites, you can find their common alias’ and thus find more information about who they are, what they’re interested in, and what they apparently believe in. It’s kind of scary. And with all that information, all those things you’ve said; people can read into it and judge you on that. Which is happening in this game. Except it does go one step further and monitor the target’s phone calls, their text messages, the files on their computers, and their online conversations. You’re like a fly on the wall as the conversations play out, while they are completely unaware. I took a joke out of context and froze the target’s credit cards while they were chatting about it. It kind of makes you paranoid, because with the ways things are now, this kind of situation seems quite likely to happen…

Orwell is a beautifully short game, I think it took me over 2 hours to complete? The user-interface is easy enough to navigate and it’s pleasingly minimalist. The music isn’t too repetitive but it seems a bit contrived in parts. Like it builds up to let the player know that this is a stressful situation that you should be stressing over. I think the game was episodic? So each episode can be completed in different ways depending on what datachunks you send off to your supervisor, with each choice making a difference in the following episodes. Think Telltale’s ‘The Walking Dead’.

The game has multiple endings and the path I was lead down made me acutely aware that I was the antagonist of the story. It was like I was in those Big Brother dystopian stories where the protagonist is railing against the man. I watched as they made plans and were trying to figure out what was going on; all the while I was picking apart their words and using it against them. I felt… bad. Horribly guilty and yet I just had to keep going.

Just go play it XD You can find it on Steam for 9.99 USD. Though I picked it up while it was on sale, I can definitely say that it was well worth 6.79 USD.

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