Commentary – Fate of the World: Tipping Point

Everyone’s got a list of musts. A book you must read, a movie must see, a game you must play, etc. Fate of the World: Tipping Point by Red Redemption is, I believe, one such game. It manages the rare achievement of being fun, challenging, and educational all at once.

The stage is set in 2020. The world is facing increasing dangers from economic, environmental, and political instability. You’re the newly-appointed president of the recently-formed Global Environment Organization, charged with selecting policies and projects to turn things around and improve the fate of the world. Saving the planet is a pretty tough job; your power isn’t infinite, nor is your will absolute. If you don’t keep member nations happy they’ll resign from the GEO and take their funding with them.

The game begins with what I found to be a humbling view of Earth from space. Not a faction map or a spreadsheet, just our lonely blue globe floating in the void. Scattered lights of civilization grow and glow across the continents. You might see a few trouble spots. There’ll be more later. A lot more.

It’s all about making the tough decisions. Can you afford to divert resources from stabalizing the political climate in the Middle East to keep America and Europe happy so they’ll keep sending you the funding you need to get anything done? How long can you put off China’s air pollution while you try to build India’s infrastructure for the future? Do you patch the water shortages in southern Africa with a quick fix or employ a long term solution that will let millions die now to save billions later?

The number of people who live and die based on your decisions is just one of the many useful metrics at your fingertips. The smart efficient interface means all the information you need to make your decisions is usually just a click or two away, along with an internal wiki to define the game’s terms. I find I usually don’t win a given scenario on the first go, but at the same time I also feel like I’m learning more on every turn and looking forward to employing new strategies next time around. It’s tense and difficult, but rewardingly so.

Speaking of learning, the various potential futures and deadly disasters are based on real scientific research. Red Redemption has worked with Oxford Universety, OxFam, tcktcktck, Taking IT Global, and Finance South East to chart what sort of world we might find ourselves in with continued inaction (or ill-informed action). It is a sobering thought to consider that everything going on in this game is something that is happening or could happen to the world within my lifetime, and a lot of it ain’t pretty.  I’ve said in the past that what keeps me disinterested in many modern ‘realistic’ games is when they make a half-hearted attempt at maturity and just end up dramatizing situations that should be receiving far more reasoned discussion.  It’s the other way around here; FotW never lets you forget the gravity of your decisions nor the cost of failure, and hopefully gets you thinking about the real people who really do have to make these decisions and live in the consequences thereof.

I’m impressed that they managed to do this without turning it into a propaganda game. Nothing you do comes without cost. Many ecologically advantageous strategies bring new problems like lowered food or engery production. Advanced technology could save countless lives when properly applied, but desperate folks given access too soon may ignore the dangers and just make matters worse. And it won’t matter how much energy and how little emissions a country has from 4th generation fast-breeder nuclear reactors if they use the same tech to build missiles and nuke the world all to hell.

Fate of the World is an important game. Not just because I enjoy playing it, but because I feel that I’m gaining something by having played it. The scenarios that play out in the game mirror real events that the world will have to contend with in the very near future. I’d like to see FotW get more interested in these issues by letting folks tackle them in a fictional setting. Plus for the next few hours the game can be had for a song as part of an Indie Royale bundle, so get on it while you can. The world is waiting.

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