Home Tech CorpoNation review – will you betray the 1990s Orwellian megacorp?

CorpoNation review – will you betray the 1990s Orwellian megacorp?

by Elijah
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CorpoNation review – will you betray the 1990s Orwellian megacorp?

AAs a lab technician for the Orwellian megacorp Ringo, your job is to sort strangely non-specific genetic samples into four different tubes – all day, every day. Each sample is identified by a specific shape or pattern or other rudimentary icon, but regardless, you need to make sure the right ones go into the right tubes or your paycheck will be tied up. Oh, and the exact shapes and patterns, along with other baffling requirements, are changed daily by your faceless masters. Welcome to the world of CorpoNation.

Those who notice a similarity with the award-winning articles are not wrong. But while that game dealt with the cruel whims of immigration, it is primarily about the dehumanization of workers in a systematized corporate environment where staff are literally prisoners of the capitalist machine. But sorting through stuff isn’t all you do. Each evening, you can return to your apartment and log on to your 1990s-style computer to read mundane news on Ringo, exchange nonsense with other workers via instant messaging, and play state-sanctioned video games . There’s a catalog to purchase customizations for your room, and regular emails encourage you to put all your money back into the economy. The vintage Mac OS-style interface and casual humor work very well to establish the game’s sinister retro-futuristic atmosphere and, as with last year’s excellent Videoverse, discover snippets of narration through discussions with colleagues is a pleasant exercise in techno-nostalgia.

But it’s only the beginning. As the days pass and arbitrary changes to your daily job become more complex, you begin to receive illicit communications from some sort of rebel guerrilla group within the company. Should we report them? And in the meantime, where do the misbehaving employees disappear? And what’s in the nutritional pills they give you? All these mysteries and narrative threads are brilliantly handled through the claustrophobic medium of your computer screen and work email system, while the muted blue and white color palette and glitchy pixel art accentuate the sinister mood – it there is no escape from this monotonous routine. Or so it seems.

CorpoNation is a scathing and amusing critique of late capitalism in which every second of your life as a lab worker is commodified and exploited, and your attention is constantly and insidiously demanded, even when you are conspicuously outside of time. But along with obligatory video games, it has you playing in your spare time – a point-and-click version of Street Fighter and a simple version of Solitaire – it’s also a pastiche of the live gaming phenomenon, which turned gaming into an essential Skinner box of fetch quests and loot hunts.

See it, sort it… CorpoNation: The sorting process. Photography: Canteen

What’s really clever about CorpoNation is how it uses industry-standard coercion loops to trick you into becoming a hardcore wage slave, desperate to exceed performance quotas, not just to get a best rating, but so you can afford a cool new game. a company-branded chair or bedspread or dietary pills. And for that reason, your exposure to the menacing hacker collective at the center of the story has added impact. Helping them requires changing your daily performance quota, and going too far means not paying your bills or having to get by without eating. Like Papers, Please, you’re thrust into a nightmarish, soulless contraption that weaponizes every trope and device of the game to dark effect.

You leave this sleek, compact, smart game feeling relieved to be free, but an hour later as you sit at your computer answering endless work emails or jumping into a fantasy game identikit live, you must ask yourself: am I really?

CorpoNation: The Sorting Process is available now on PC, priced £12

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