Corporate America is a very topical game. It’s about the present, with lots of references to current companies, current political movements, and the current state of the country. In many ways, this helps the game stand out. But it’s also a potential weakness.
Cyrus at Father Geek brought this up as one of the worst features of the game in his review. (If you haven’t read the review yet, I really encourage you to.) I think he has some good points, so today I wanted to spend some time discussing the pros and cons of including time sensitive material in a game that will presumably live on well past some of its references.
Today is Tomorrow’s Yesterday’s News
If political campaigning is any indication, people have short memories. Especially in the age of Twitter and 24 hour news networks, what’s hip and exciting one day is lost to vague memories the next. How does this affect Corporate America?
Take the card Stop Online Piracy Act. For those of you who don’t remember, earlier this year the law was making its way through the House of Representatives when a massive internet uprising derailed it. While lawmakers will continue to pursue legislation that attacks websites that share material under copyright, they will not use the name “Stop Online Piracy Act” again. It is massively unpopular, and they will try to sneak their provisions past the public in other forms.
So, how long until no one remembers what “Stop Online Piracy Act” even means?
It’s likely that in the future, Corporate America will lose some of its relevance because this reference will fade. The game will contain cards with references that no one remembers, odd combinations of words that have seemingly no relevance whatsoever. That might be a little funny, but it’s not very funny. And for a game that revels in tongue-in-cheek references and puns, that’s a bad thing.
That’s the problem Cyrus was pointing out. How much of a lifetime does a game have when many of its jokes rely on topical knowledge?
Snapshot of an Era
But long after the jokes and memory fade from society’s collective consciousness, the history will still be there. And my hope is that Corporate America and other timely artifacts (say, political cartoons, documentaries, and the like) will continue to remind us what life was like back then. We may never see another Stop Online Piracy Act, but the card being in the game will remind us that it was our battle in our time.
Your kids might not get all of the jokes. Their frontiers and battles will be different from ours. But when you take Corporate America off the shelf to play a game (when they’re 13 or older, of course), for every confused look they give you, you’ll be able to look back and remember what it was like when you were out there fighting for internet freedom or to reduce the national debt or whatever. You’ll share your passions and battles with them.
Worst comes to worst, the game will still play fantastically in years to come, even if the jokes do dull slightly. You’ll still be convincing your friends to support you when you run for president, still be pitting two friends against each other to up the bribe for playing a consumption card, and still waiting for the perfect time to spring that killer Executive Privilege card on your unsuspecting opponents. That will be just as fun, even if the mood of the game takes good memories rather than fresh jokes to establish.
All sorts of games have historical significance. From games set in historical contexts to games based on historical events featuring historical characters, these are all historical documents, just like newspapers, books, and documentaries. They have their biases and their narratives which may or may not be accurate.
The big difference for games is that they are rarely about historical events as they occur. It’s far more common for games to be about historical events long since over, such as the World Wars. Games that take on contemporary issues are few and far between, but they are no less relevant as lenses for seeing how society understands the world and itself.
Corporate America happens to be one of those rare games based on contemporary issues. In doing so, it risks missing some important ideas and including other events and ideas that don’t have the lasting power to make them worthy for inclusion. But that’s a risk I’m willing to take.
If Corporate America gets funded, I believe that its relevance as both a game and a historical artifact will live on, even after some of its corny jokes fade into obscurity. That’s something I’m very proud of.