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About the Story
It is the one sacred cow remaining in American political life. You are a rebellious student at a typically oppressive PC college. What happens next? Whatever you do, don't burn the Koran, or you'll die.
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Number of Reviews: 6
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So you're this guy. On a campus. And you've decided to burn some books. And that's entirely that. There is no game, no story, no puzzle, no comedy, no action, no adventure, no sudden twist, no gentle arc, no gotcha, no gimmick, no satire, and not much in the way of character. Most verbs (even verbs that would serve the work's intent) are left unimplemented (or quickly rebuffed). Some basic nouns (for example, BOOKS) are left out as well. The environment is sparse. There are some Muslims nearby, and the protagonist, while being challenged by the work to "have the guts" to burn their holy text (among others), can't even get up the nerve to talk to them about it or ask them any questions - commands like ASK MUSLIMS ABOUT THE KORAN (or indeed, any attempt to interact with them) are refused fearfully: the Muslims are too unsettling (according to the provided response) to interact with. Comparably, while you're allowed to burn the books (any and all of them), you're not allowed to read them. You've done enough of that already, the text tells you (gently contradicting the EXAMINE responses, which imply that you've not so much read them as suffered through some slanted lectures on them).
It's details like these, and not the response to the short series of book-burnings, that make the author's position unmistakably clear, and that's where this work succeeds entirely: along with no room for gameplay, no room for comedy, no room for satire and no room for perspective, there is no room for doubt and no room (or allowance, or invitation) for dialogue. The work's one room is packed floor to ceiling with exactly one thing: the author's desire to express one, simple sentiment. And it does that.
And that would be well and good (maybe even admirable), except it comes at the expense - in absolute terms - of any experience meant for anyone other than the author. Even if you agree wholeheartedly with the work's social position, there's still nothing implemented to entertain, puzzle, excite, stimulate or amuse you. It doesn't really fail at anything, because it doesn't even (to use the game's own term) have the guts to try.
I question the description of this game as satire. There's very little irony involved; one gets the sense -- and this is more or less explicitly stated in the game's "about" text -- that the sentiments expressed are accurate representations of the author's beliefs, albeit exaggerated for comic effect. Subtlety, often considered a vital component of effective satire, is entirely absent.
On the occasions when the text does venture into sarcasm, here's a sample of the level of nuance and incisive commentary you can expect: "You are the epitome of evil: a white male. The only way to be lower in the social order would be to be rich or to buy into horrible ideas of equality under the law and other such nonsense created by dead white males." Based on that and other silly descriptions ("Diversity week has taught you that they are Muslims, not some cosplay group."), it may initially be tempting to think that the game is satirizing the immaturity and ignorance of the player character, but this reading doesn't sustain through the end.
The author claims that the game is inspired by "concern for the First Amendment," but it's difficult to see what that has to do with what's presented here. The consequences of burning the Koran consist almost entirely of actions carried out by Islamic individuals; government is involved only to the extent that (Spoiler - click to show)the police respond to violence breaking out. Taking this into consideration, the only real message to take away from the game is "Islam is bad; other religions are neutral to good." Putting aside the question of the validity or insightfulness of that message, there seems to be some disconnect between the point the author claims to be making and what the game's text actually implies.
Normally I wouldn't put so much emphasis on critiquing the themes/politics of a game, but when the game's only purpose is to convey those ideas, there really isn't anything else to talk about. To its credit, the prose is entertainingly written, if unsubtle, and there are tailored responses for quite a few unimportant actions the player might attempt while playing around before undertaking the one action that has any effect. Given the extremely limited scope of the game, that's not a particularly large accomplishment, but the attention to detail is worth noting.
All that said, I do think this game is worth taking the couple of minutes it takes to fully play through, if only for a peek into the author's psyche. If nothing else, it made me think, though probably not about the things the author intended.
Related reviews: poster, one-room, short
Play it if: your understanding of the nuances of the Muslim world has the depth of a dessert spoon, and you enjoy reveling in this fact by playing one-note nonsense like this.
Don't play it if: you have a soft spot for troll-feeding, because a game this irritating is sure to provoke more people like me into writing unnecessarily long reviews.
I might not have bothered with this review had I only played the game.
I mean, yes, the satire is one-note (only Muslims will kill you for criticizing them in public, apparently). I mean, yes, the premise is unrealistic to the point of utter absurdity (a college student decides to take five tomes and burn them for no clear reason). I mean, yes, the overall tone of the game is one of self-aggrandizement, attributing free speech to the author's personal deity (Jesus, apparently) and a specific military subsection of a national identity (American soldiers), in spite of the fact that modern democratic ideas have their roots in, among others, philosophers (not soldiers) of revolutionary France as well as the (non-Christian) Hellenic world of antiquity.
No, what finally motivated me to actually review this game was the help file.
Firstly, the author gives thanks to Jesus for "a spiritual empire not dependent upon theft, slavery, lust, or murder". Rather bizarre, given the theft of land, enslavement of Africans and Native Americans, and mass murder that helped build the United States (I'm not sure how lust figures into U.S. history).
Secondly, the author describes the game as "a hard-edged satire". In a word: no. Hard-edged satire presents novel constructs that force its audience to re-think their perspectives. This offers caricature that will appeal only to those already in agreement with the author's views. It's not even as hard as the "Draw a Picture of Muhammad Day" exercise, which in and of itself was nothing more than a brief irritant as far as political activism goes.
Finally, and perhaps most insultingly, is the claim that the game was inspired in part by "a concern for the First Amendment". I don't doubt the author's support for the First Amendment. But censorship is only one of two ways to undermine it. The second is to destroy the integrity of communication. A considered attempt to respect the First Amendment would have resulted in a more complex game, and moreover, one which at least attempted to forge some basis in researched fact rather than general opinion. I don't mean to say that the underlying sentiment - that Islam is uniquely intolerant of criticism and has created a double standard for itself in Western society - is necessarily baseless in reality. In some areas, it is; in others, it isn't. But the game itself makes no attempt to acknowledge this.
The author writes, "My thanks also go out to those who understand and defend this right, no matter whatever else your politics." The irony is that the author has done something worse than not defending this right: the author has defended this right poorly, by offering subjective and simplistic propaganda - yes, propaganda - in place of the kind of considered and enlightening discussion that the First Amendment is ultimately intended to promote.
Had the author designed "Burn the Koran and Die" in mind with actually making a subtle point and substantiating it, I would gladly have called it a success, whether or not I particularly agreed with the point being made. As it is, I can't even call it that. Non-American, irreligious, and non-conservative as I am, I have to say that American conservatives deserve better material than this in the public forum.
See All 6 Member Reviews
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