According to Spinnortality, a dystopian society doesn’t get built in a day. It involves a lot of research and development, overthrowing a government or two, and sinking funds into insidious media takeovers. The cyberpunk management PC game is the latest project from indie developer James Patton, who most recently created the Renaissance-themed dating-slash-vengeance simulator Masques and Murder. He’s seeking about $12,000 for it on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter.
A free demo is available on Patton’s Itch.io page. It places you at the head of a megacorporation that’s a kind of quasi-Illuminati. You manipulate the world behind the scenes, rolling out data-collection software, bribing politicians, and developing nefarious technologies around gene splicing and artificial intelligence. The ultimate goal is global domination and immortality, as the title implies.
Patton freelances and teaches English in Vienna, Austria. The concept sprang from a lesson plan around future tenses in grammar. The initial exercise inspired him to build the idea into a video game, and contributed to creating one of the core mechanics, which involves marketing certain software or ideas to people based on their value systems.
“I asked my students to imagine a dystopian future with horrible products, then try to convince me they were brilliant. That’s the origin of the marketing mechanic,” said Patton in an email to GamesBeat. “But once I started work on the game, I realised it could do a lot more, and comment on real-world problems. I started reading cyberpunk books because it became clear to me we’re living in a cyberpunk world right now; I didn’t even plan to make this while I was reading them, but the genre piqued my interest.”
Spinnortality draws inspiration from science-fiction novels like Bruce Sterling’s Islands in the Net and current events such as the 2016 U.S. presidential election. What originally started as a two-month project grew to include mechanics around espionage, political intrigue, and the creation of puppet states. He wanted to explore ideas like corporate tax havens, the way media affects people’s everyday lives, and how lobbyists influence lawmakers.
“In a nutshell, it’s about the intersection of tech, capital, politics, and personal freedoms,” said Patton. “Put another way, it’s about power in the modern age.”
Patton’s other games include Masques and Murder, which he describes as a “feminist revenge dating simulator” set in Renaissance Italy, and The Gods Are Hungry, a prehistoric tribe management sim that explores the balance between material and spiritual needs. He’s created a few small projects as part of the Austrian indie dev scene, which he says has produced a number of interesting games.
“Off the top of my head there’s And Yet It Moves and Secrets of Raetikon from Broken Rules, Don’t Make Love from Maggese (I did some proofreading for that game), and The Lion’s Song from Mi’pu’mi,” said Patton. “One of my favourites is Path Out, an autobiographical game about (and written by) a Syrian refugee, chronicling his journey to escape his homeland.”
Patton says that he thinks the scene is growing, particularly thanks to monthly meet-ups run by fellow indie developer Michael Hartinger. However, he notes that it also struggles with the not uncommon problem of diversity. He knows of a few women developers, such as Verena Demel, and developers of color, but it’s still fairly homogenous in terms of demographics.
“I don’t think that’s a failing of the Austrian scene in particular — I think the whole of games culture is struggling with diversity — but I still wish there was more diversity in my neck of the woods,” said Patton. “For one thing, it’s just great to share this wonderful medium with as many people as possible.”