As Edward Snowden’s revelations about the ever-expanding reach of the National Security Agency continue to make headlines, one videogame developer is using a new iPhone game to speak out against what some call a new surveillance state -- by imagining the horrors such a state would bring.
“Republique,” a Kickstarter project released this month by small developer Camouflaj, is an episodic stealth game in which the player must guide a young girl named Hope to freedom after she is earmarked for destruction by a shadowy, totalitarian state.
Although conceived in 2011 before the Snowden leaks, the developers were inspired not only by books such as George Orwell’s “1984” but also by what they saw as the digital prisons already being built by governments and corporations.
“Back when I worked in Japan, the company blocked access to non-company email services, they took random screenshots of my monitor and sent them to HR, and they tracked the length of time we took for lunch. Even back in 2006, it was easy to see that corporate monitoring was just getting warmed up.” Ryan Payton, Camouflaj co-founder, told FoxNews.com.
“Revelations like Room 641A and PRISM just prove that governments are just as guilty in this secret global movement to listen, tag and monitor the world’s population.”
The concept for the game apparently touched a nerve with thousands of others too: The Kickstarter project drew nearly 12,000 backers who donated over half a million dollars to make the game.
Developers at Camouflaj had experience working with high quality titles such as “Metal Gear Solid 4,” “F.E.A.R” and “Halo 4.” The background of quality shows, with smooth controls, exceptional graphics and full voiced dialogue, as well as big names such as David Hayter from “Metal Gear Solid” among the cast.
The game itself adopts a unique mode of gameplay. Hope contacts you via a stolen phone, and you must guide her through the environments, directing her to sneak past enemies, and using your electronic hacking skills to unlock doors and various other useful activities.
“Republique” stands in contrast to other stealth games, in which the player is the character doing the sneaking. In Camouflaj’s game, you take on the role of the commander ordering the character around, while jumping between cameras and manipulating the environment. It’s a refreshing change.
The use of the phone and the Internet in order to move Hope along on her path to freedom is for Camouflaj an appropriate message for how technology and the Internet can be a weapon against the tyranny of government and corporations.
“We love the opportunism this newly connected world grants us and how it can empower and liberate people,” Payton said. “Ultimately, that’s what ‘Republique’ is all about: the ongoing struggle between distrust of digital authority, and lust for it."
The first episode introduces the player to the dystopian world and takes place in a containment facility called Metamorphosis. A slow pace, an ability to pause and think out your next move, as well as simple, one-touch controls make for an intuitive game that is easy to pick up and play.
The game also instills a good degree of self-aware humor via in-game pick-ups such as newspapers and recordings that provide much-needed levity among the philosophical ponderings on tyranny.
The slow pace, and a fair degree of backtracking may put off some gamers looking for a more action-based title. But those looking for a unique title with an involving story may want to give the first episode of “Republique” a try.
Republique is available now for the iPhone for $4.99