Critical Intel

Critical Intel
This Republican Video Game is the Elephant in the Room

Robert Rath | 4 Sep 2014 16:00
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mission majority kill screen 2

Only one word can describe the game's aesthetic sense: ugly. The music makes you dive for the mute button.

Even when you kill a Taxer, there's no fun involved. They don't do the satisfying squish animation like Goombas, but instead disappear and play a damning-sounding audio clip from a Democrat. Most are from President Obama - old classics like, "you didn't build that," and "if you like your health plan, you can keep it" for example - but there also quotes from others that are hard to identify by voice. The clips don't really work. They're sampled out of context from a wide array of issues, and not all of them fit with the theme. If I'm stomping tax bills, why am I hearing Obama say there "isn't even a smidgeon of corruption" in his administration? What do Hillary Clinton quotes from the Benghazi hearings have to do with anything? Mission Majority presents the quotes so context-free that I had to look several up to remember what they're related to. It's a muddied message, at best.

The second level introduced a new enemy type, the Mudslinger, that can "hurl false and empty rhetoric." Thankfully, you can "jump on them to mute their misleading words."

I confess, I got excited when I saw the Mudslinger. Since the Taxers were Goomba replacements, I reasoned, perhaps the mudslingers would be Hammer Brothers stand-ins. Perhaps every stage would add unique straw man enemies. Death Panel doctors sneaking toward you in turtle shells! Ghosts that try and take your guns away! My imagination ran wild. The game wasn't good, but it'd at least be amusing to see Democrat stereotypes filling out the villain roster in this crapsack Mushroom Kingdom. Maybe this game did have a sense of humor.

That dream faded quickly. Funny thing: the Mudslingers don't throw anything. They don't even move. They wave their arm back and forth as if they're miming throwing mud balls at you.

And that's when I realized what must've happened: whatever intern designed this game originally programmed the Mudslingers to live up to their name, but found that alongside the stiff controls and platform jumps, dodging missiles made winning impossible. My alternate theory holds that they ran out of time - explaining why Mudslingers are the last enemy type introduced in the game. The only new element between Stage 3 and Stage 4 is that in the final stage, you flip switches representing the races the GOP has to win for a Senate majority. When you're halfway through, you get pixel art of a sad Joe Biden - the only delightful thing in the game.

When you win, the game rewards you with a splash page of Giopi holding an American flag - and directing you to donate money or volunteer. There's also a link to the site's store, where you can buy Giopi T-shirts, coffee mugs and a 2014 Mission Majority poster.

The T-shirt costs thirty dollars.

But Mission Majority's sloppy design isn't why it fails - it fails due to its ill-defined and poorly targeted message. While the closing text talks about cutting red tape and regulations, the game's enemies are tax bills and Democrat spin doctors. The kill quotes are from a wide range of issues. There's no unified message the game tries to get across, except that Democrats are bad - and the game presupposes that you already think so.

I can't figure out which audience this is trying to galvanize. If it's an attempt to reach out to young voters, it's an abysmal failure. There's no argument presented for why you should support Republicans, the game's low quality will turn off young people, and the sign-up page scares off the curious. I doubt Mission Majority will precipitate anyone to cast their lot in as a volunteer who wasn't already planning on it. The novelty and press associated with it might drive more people to the site than a simple donation or volunteer page would, but the question is whether enough people will stick it out through the pixelated torture to cough up money afterward. My guess would be "no." The game is bad, and not the brilliantly calculated so-bad-you-have-to-share-it variety like Carly Fiorina's Demon Sheep ad or King Roy the Rat. You just want to close out and forget.

But Mission Majority's biggest problem is that it simultaneously preaches fiscal responsibility while looking like a colossal waste of money. It's a poor product with a neglectful design philosophy. Throughout the whole ordeal, I couldn't help but wonder how much it cost to print all those Giopi T-shirts nobody's going to want. The irony is that the NRSC created an incompetent advertisement in order to convince people to give them more ad money, and it's embarrassing.

Could they have done it better? Yeah, they could have. Maybe they could've made a small-scale strategy game about how to win over a district with door-knocking volunteers and phone banks, or an Angry Birds parody about breaking through to voters. Hell, Mission Majority would've served fine had they went whole-hog on the joke and spent a little more time on the design. Instead it just comes off as tone deaf. "Hey, you kids like games, right?" it seems to ask, before providing the worst game possible.

It's like a watching a high school guidance counselor rap about abstinence.

Still, it's at least an innovative attempt, so points for tying, NRSC.

But the next time a confused young man stomps on a tax bill, know that I'll be calling you up for a quote.

Robert Rath is a freelance writer, novelist, and researcher based in Hong Kong. His articles have appeared in the Escapist and Slate. You can follow his exploits at RobWritesPulp.com or on Twitter at @RobWritesPulp.

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