Neocolonialism is Seth Alter’s new strategy game of economic control and dirty politics. I wrote about Neocolonialism’s Kickstarter for IGM, back in January. The game’s out now, so I interviewed Seth for GamerHub.Tv:
What was your main goal in developing and releasing Neocolonialism?
I had three main goals. The first is that the game didn’t exist yet—in fact, there’s nothing quite like it out there—and I wanted it in my world. Second, Neocolonialism is, as you have written about in the past, a new sort of educational game, and it’s meant to herald a totally new approach to serious game design. Third, I love making games, and I’ve had fun with the process itself.
It’s hard for me to describe Neocolonialism without mentioning Sid Meier’s Civilization. What other games influenced you in developing this game?
Neocolonialism was heavily influenced by Euro-style board games like the 18xx series or Imperial. Board games have this whole genre of “economic” games that just don’t really exist in the digital world. I hate economic games, and the initial genesis of this project was a response to that—Neocolonialism may look and feel a bit like its relatives at first, but in the end, it’s an economic game that is not an “Economic Game”.
Relatedly, I’ve been playing Civ since I was eight, and while it is in the end my go-to for design principles to emulate, it has really troubling social implications—namely, that you do all of these terrible things to other people but the game makes you feel good about your actions. Neocolonialism is partially meant to be anti-Civ: ultimately, you pretty much do what you do in Civ, except that my game makes it clear that you are a terrible person.
Neocolonialism aligns the player’s gameplay goals with economic exploitation, and in-game success is moral failure. This puts the player in the role of the villain, a mechanic which was done successfully in iconic serious games like Brenda Brathwaite Romero’s Train and Molleindustria’s McVideogame.
Right, you don’t play as the Good Guy in the game, because the idea of a superhero-esque protagonist in this context is inherently imperialistic and also wishful thinking.
(As a game writer, I can’t help seeing some of Neocolonialism’s evil goals as a bit of a play on a common gamer’s desire to view the game setting as secondary to winning.)