The NSA hacking story, brought to light by the leaks of Edward Snowdon are currently major news and will be for some time. However being a whisleblower is no easy role to undertake. Your often going up against powerful vested interests and will be faced with a barrage of criticism from many quarters. Ask Chelsea Manning about the price you pay? She was sentenced on August 21st 2013 to 35 years’ imprisonment for leaking files relating to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and diplomatic cables to Wikileaks. Both are big news stories and big news stories mean the potential for a newsgame. In this instance the topic is Edward Snowdon and the game is called ‘Snowden Saga – Escape from Den of Iniquity’. The game was covered on its release by The Guardian and GTN spoke with one of the developers, Mike Smith, to find out a bit more about the making of the game. We started talking about the motivation behind the game, “The purpose was always to incite a comedic response from the player, giving one the chance to play as a widely-known person in a parody of a widely-known smartphone game. … It does create awareness of the specifics in the Snowden media saga with those that might have missed some details in the newspaper or have forgotten it, such as the countries Snowden was exiled to and the protection he received from Russia and its president, but this was all unintentional and a natural evolution of creating a game on that topic.”
A number of interesting things came out of our conversation. The first is how personal making newsgames still is. As there is no formalised industry for it as yet, what we do is very much about what moves you, as Mike remarked, “I did my own little speed coding contest and decided to release it myself afterwards. That’s why the first version was completed in about 26-28 hours. … I worked on the game a couple of hours a day, that eventually spanned a week. I used lots of shortcuts such as using Poser-rendered sprites for all characters instead of using 3D models. My engine allows the use of 3D Studio Max for level/game development, the workflow was so fast because of this that I was able to create the entire Moscow Airport level in Version 1.0 in 2 hours.” It’s pretty impressive speed development and shows how to make this sort of a game, there has to be a strong personal driver – in this case privacy was clearly an issue and one that some gamers feel, “I always refer to the anecdote of a schizophrenic walking around with tinfoil on his head because he believes the government is reading his mind through a satellite. I find this very a sad assertion, because the government does not need a satellite orbiting earth with crazy impossible technology to read a single individuals mind, when they can actually view your past, your present, and even your future by simply reviewing your Facebook account, nowadays even including your current location and documenting your past locations.”
Snowdon’s Endless Run is available for download now from the App Store and from Google Play.