It's election time in Pakistan: Go rich boy, go!

by Jahanzaib Haque

Humor
2013

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Number of Reviews: 2
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Slackerstan Votes, April 21, 2013
by Sam Kabo Ashwell (Seattle)

A shortish CYOA piece that combines the Teenage Dirtbag tone (familiar from a million My Crappy Apartment games) with the game-as-zine approach of recent Twine offerings. The difference from normal My Apartment is that instead of being a cynical asshole middle-class American kid, you're a cynical asshole Pakistani kid from a class that's privileged enough to share a lot of middle-class Western tastes.

In line with its Teenage Dirtbag tone, its perspective is the sort of South Park nihilism where the only function of ethics is to allow you to be scornfully aware that everyone's morally bankrupt, and to enable sick humour to function. The protagonist cares more about cute girls, Facebook and the next Game of Thrones episode than actual political issues or religion - and, in this counterfactual universe where he is motivated to vote for no very clear reason, there's not much to suggest that changing his mind would be worth it.

The game is largely linear, with significant variations depending on whether you go to vote with your metalhead buddy, a cute girl from your college, or your inept, shotgun-toting security guard. Invariably your polling registration is messed up and you have to venture into the violent slums of Murdabad to cast your vote, leading to slapstick culture-clash scenes. The main fear of your wealthy contemporaries is Taliban attacks on the polls, but the real obstacles to voting are more to do with massive income disparity, apathy, corruption, everyday violence and a society deeply inured to all of this.

If you do manage to vote, there's no political effect; in fact, there's no political outcome even mentioned, confirming the general sense that it's taken for granted that nothing will change. Rather, voting (and telling people how you voted) is more of a social gambit, allowing you to get the girl or party with your security guard. In at least one ending, your hipster buddy votes for the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami party for ironic purposes. Similarly, the game frequently claims to give you points - positive for looking good, negative for being a terrible person or just looking lame -, which are not actually recorded and have no impact on the story.

It's a somewhat rough effort; spelling and punctuation occasionally wobble, and the integration of graphics is spotty. It seems at least partially addressed to an outside audience, explaining some of its dialect and references, but by no means all (and sometimes the explanation is no more enlightening than the original). In at least one ending the game seemed to give me the wrong companion. Very little information is given about the candidates you're voting for; this obviously reflects the low-information, low-engagement stance of the protagonist, but it does make it harder for an outside reader to grasp things. (The semiotics of having the One Pound Fish guy represent the PML-N totally elude me. Possibly it's a sick burn if you're up on Pakistani politics; possibly it's a throwaway YouTube joke.)

I don't feel qualified to rate this, but it's definitely the most interesting Quest game I've played to date.