I am puzzled today and a tad distraught. Through a friend's Facebook post, I learned of a website for a supposed video game that may be real but is more than likely, ostensibly, bogus. It's called "Slavery the Game." While its website requires that you enter an age to verify you're old enough to see the horror behind the first page, the same video you see at that website is available for view on YouTube to anyone. This offensive "game" threatens to go live in Spring 2012.
When I first saw the website video, a lead ball dropped in my stomach. Clearly the "game" is about the middle passage, the transatlantic slave trade of Africans to the Americas. Could this ever be a major-market virtual reality game? (Here I could comment on the whole plantation/slave trade tourism that flourishes in the American South, a big money maker right here in Louisiana, but I don't have time.)
Next, I wondered if this were some kind of political statement. If so, it gets a big fat fail from me the same way the "Hit the Bitch" campaign did. Fail. Fail, fail, fail!
I tried to discern if the narrator's voice was that of a man of African-Diaspora descent. (Yes, you can sometimes tell ethnicity without visuals.) It sounds like it could be, but I'm not sure, and that led me to wonder, "What if a black creator is behind this? Would that change the purpose of the game's creation?"
The Escapist has also pondered who is behind this game. The writer suggests that it may be bogus, some kind of publicity stunt. According to his research:
... neither this game, nor the people making it seem to exist anywhere outside of that single web page.I looked up slaverythegame.com on WhoIs and learned that the domain is registered through GoDaddy.com using its privacy proxy service. Seeing how secretive this creator or creators are, I'm inclined to believe that it's a malicious hoax unleashed on a fragile world by a person or people who have not yet grasped the ineffectiveness of ambiguity in marketing and messaging or the damage a mixed-message may do. It could also just as easily have been done by a bright but immature designer who still lives with his mom.
The description on the YouTube clip up there claims the game is the work of UK-based Total War creators The Creative Assembly, but the game appears nowhere on that firm's site.
Javelin Reds Gaming, the title's supposed creator, doesn't exist as far as we can tell. The phone number listed on the site leads to a Google Voice inbox (with a Kentucky area code) and "email@example.com" appears to be a nonfunctional email address.
We even went so far as to plug "Javelin Reds" into an internet anagram generator, but as you can plainly see, the results offer little in the way of illumination.
An avid gamer in my house immediately declared "it's a hoax." She says that you can tell it's a hoax by all the logos for major game companies at the bottom. She thinks it's "an exercise in hyperbole." (But it could be some crazy-azz way to try to sell the game to a company, a company that would have to have some kind of crazier-azz corporate death wish.)
The use of the company logos presents an intriguing issue for activists who want the video or website down. Can its creator use the logos without permission? Of course, if the creator is pressured to remove the logos, he/she will probably just edit the video and put it up again without the logos. Oh, where are the Super Hero Stuxnet hackers when you need them? Don't we have any of those who fight racist propaganda and hate speech?
Anyway, until we know who's behind this so-called game, we won't know if the creator is motivated to attack racism and slavery or glorify it. In the meantime, has this person done more damage than good for the world community? What is his/her game?