Tuesday, July 5, 2011

the curfew: britain's answer to a dangerous liberty

The year: 2027
The place: Britain

The setup:  A quarter century after the 9/11 attacks, a prolonged world-wide recession, and the rise of fear-mongering autocrats is nearly complete.  A population exhausted by economic collapse and startled by a near-miss nuclear catastrophe elects a government that promises to bring security by pre-criminalizing suspect populations, forcing individuals to earn citizen rights by accumulating citizenship points, and establishing the curfew which makes it illegal for sub-citizens to be out of their homes after dark.

The Curfew is a game that propels the player into a creepy, logical extension of the surveillance culture that permeates Britain today.  It comments directly on the too-common authoritarian tactic of using security concerns to convince citizens to give up their freedoms for personal safety.

You play a sub-citizen on the run.  Entrusted with mysterious information that must be passed along before your impending arrest, you find yourself in a seedy safe-house with four people who will divulge their secrets if you gain their trust.  Your task is to decide who is most trustworthy to receive your information.  Richly bleak cinematics amidst a Bladerunner-esque view of the future weave a compelling story line that will delight doomers of all ages.

Teenagers are the game's primary target, and as a vehicle to create awareness, if not outrage, at the increasing erosion of freedoms for the professed sake of security, The Curfew is a sincere and entertaining lunge at the heart of the matter that has garnered the endorsement of Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch among others.

Does it hit the mark?  We don't want to spoil things, so get to the endgame and see for yourself.

Although the game was released a year ago, we find the technology freshly impressive, the design appealing, and the message as relevant and important as ever.  Perhaps more so.