There’s been a lot of strange games released for all sorts of peculiar reasons: PETA’s anti-Animal Abuse Pokemon game and Shower With Your Dad Simulator 2015 come to mind as two particularly strange games with questionable motives. However, these games fail in comparison to a new game released by the FBI. That’s right, the FBI. Allow yourself to take that in for a second: The United States Federal Bureau of Investigations has created a game and it’s just terrible.
I present to you: Slippery Slope, an anti-ISIS propaganda flash game meant to dissuade youths from falling into the trap of logic leading to violent extremism.
The game is apart of the FBI’s “Don’t Be a Puppet” initiative, which is an online effort to educate impressionable youths about the dangers of extremism and warn them about the potential realities of such beliefs, including perpetrating hateful attacks based on race or religion. The program is meant to encourage teens to think for themselves and deploy skepticism and practicality when coming across extremist ideas and rhetoric.
Let’s pretend for a second that this game is necessary and not a vapid attempt from an out of touch agency trying to reach kids through patronizing means, how does the FBI intend to convey such a delicate and difficult message to kids? With Goats and explosions of course!
Included in the Don’t Be A Puppet’s interactive basement, the game is meant to be a original gameboy game entitled “The Adventures of Poonikins” starring the titular Poonikins, a goat who is apparently struggling with extremist beliefs. Design wise, it has a relatively simple gameplay design: players control Poonikins while avoiding green walls as he traverses a vast green pasture attempting to make it to each of the game’s 6 finish lines. If Poonikins is to run into one of the green walls, he explodes instantaneously into various small blocks; a horrifying death for a confused goat. Upon passing a finish line and completing a level, the game displays “distorted logic text”, giving impressionable teens examples of harmful rhetoric. Just on a purely analysis of the game as a video game, Slippery Slope’s biggest problem lies in its horrendously touchy controls and it’s almost laughable difficulty; a tap of either arrow will send Poonikins flying faster than you can say, well, Poonikins. It’s just simply not well designed, featuring gameplay elements that feel like they would fee stale even on something like the Magnovx Odyssey.
Of course the greatest question is: What the hell does a goat avoiding walls and exploding have to do with radical extremism? This game doesn’t convey any meaningful message in any way, if anything it just distracts from the initiatives overall message by being strange and absurd. Why is the goat’s name Poonikins? Does the FBI think Goats explode when touching green walls? The Goat is a terrorist, is that whats going on? There are so many baffling questions unanswered by this one’s Goat dangerous descent into extremism.
So why am I bringing this up? What could this terrible game with questionable motives have to with sociology? On this blog I like to point out new ways video games are being implemented in our society, from usages in medical rehabilitation to being used as a means to weed out job candidates. These new implementations speak to how ingrained video games have become in our society; they are permeating into all aspects of society, giving us new ways to interact and carry about our regular lives. The FBI creating a video game with the intent purpose of educating youths is a pretty remarkable action, exemplifying society’s gradual shift towards an acceptance of the medium as a powerful tool in education. We’ve come to the point where video games, for better or worse, are transcending the the typical gaming conventions and being used for new and unique way every week. The FBI’s Slippery Slope may be an example of a poor harnessing of the power of the mediums ability to do more, but it’s a novel one at the very least.
Still, it’s hard not come away from playing this game without feeling dirty. If this game is the latest tool in counter terroism that the FBI can offer, maybe we need to rethink some things.