Tuesday, August 09, 2011

America 2049

What is AMERICA 2049?

It's a Facebook game. Like FarmVille. Except a million miles away from the barren dust bowl of FarmVille.

The game pictures a dystopic future for America in 2049. You begin as part of a government agency hunting down a suspected terrorist. Nothing is as it seems, of course, and you're forced to question the information you're given along the way.

How does the actual gameplay work...?

You're given a map divided into a grid. Click on a square and you reveal: a clue, a recharge unit, a puzzle prompt or absolutely nothing. Some clues are a piece of an alphanumeric code. Some are audio clips from an informant. Some are video clips. Who are in the videos...?

Victor Garber, Harold Perrineau, Cherry Jones, Margaret Cho and Anthony Rapp all play key roles.

In a *FACEBOOK* game?!

But why would they do this?

Well, there is a message involved in this game.

The fictional portrait of the future is fleshed out by recalling actual events from American history. Like this poem ("Strange Fruit") by a schoolteacher condemning the lynching of African Americans:
Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh,
And the sudden smell of burning flesh!

Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for a tree to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

-Abel Meeropol
But how is the actual game...?

It's *good*. As you can imagine from the subject matter, it can get a little preachy—but I think a lot of people who might stumble upon this game would probably benefit from some of the things the narrative has to offer. The puzzles start off pretty easy (decoding passwords) but escalate sharply as you approach the end. There's some real satisfaction at solving some of the harder puzzles, but if you're really stumped you can click on the "discussions" button on the right side of the playing field and enter the forums where you'll invariably find the solutions to every puzzle in the game. So, really, if you allow yourself that, it's a cakewalk to the end.

And yes, there *IS* an ending to the game! It's not an endless game like FarmVille. Reached the end last night. It's a worthwhile journey. Clicking on boxes on a grid can be a little tedious in the beginning, but it actually gets more addictive as the story opens up and you want to learn more.

All in all, I'm glad a game like this is out there. You know, for the kids.


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