Art, can exist to do many things. It can entertain, it can inform, it can teach, and it can do so much more. Each form of art has its own strengths and weaknesses, and games as a form themselves have their own as well. Not all games need to be about experiencing something new, or teaching something, but there is an undeniable place for them to create unique scenarios that leave lasting impressions like Papers, Please or This War of Mine.
Orwell is another game that wants to go into this line of games, that aim less at being conventionally fun, but at creating compelling gameplay that causes you to reflect upon the world in a different way. In Orwell you take part in the new titular Orwell program as its first human researcher who’s job it is to investigate and provide perspective from outside of the Nation.
What begins as a trial program, quickly escalates when a terror attack happens in the capital city of Bonton and the problem is given to you as part of the Orwell program to figure out who is behind it. You are given a handful of leads, and told to investigate to figure out what is going on. All of the digital lives of people are available – web pages, social media, news, chat communications, emails and more. From there you choose what to do with the information – do you report it to the Nation to help build profiles of suspects? Is that person you’re investigating actually a terrorist or just a person caught in your web? What does the information you pass on say about them to Orwell and the security force in the Nation?
Is security worth the loss of freedom?
I’m always a fan when games try to tackle things like this as there’s a lot they can bring to it that other mediums can’t due to their interactive nature. In the case of Orwell it’s not a case of seeing a show about a security agent doing something, it’s you looking into things because of a security threat. At what point are you just flagging anyone who is a potential threat to stop another attack?
One thing that stood out to me as a bit of an odd choice, is that they are going with someone outside of the Nation. I wonder if this will work well as it might remove some of that immediacy from it that can create those reactions in people. On the other hand, it may also better reflect a feeling of how security agencies often are separated and spying in places far away. It will be interesting to see if it works out.