Conquering the world, one pixel (and dollar) at a time

A local Kickstarter campaign tasks backers with conquering the world but swaps the traditional bullets and tanks with lobbyists and trade routes. Can you build your Swiss bank account up enough to emerge victorious?

Neocolonialism, developed by Seth Alter, has already received nods from PC Gamer and Rock, Paper, Shotgun, the latter which praised its ability to put the player in the shoes of “exaggerated, tongue-in-cheek version of the tie-wearing ultra-capitalist psychopaths.”

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But Alter said in an email interview that the ruthless capitalism is all for a good cause.

“Neocolonialism encapsulates my vision of what educational games ought to be, which is that the fun element of the game is fundamentally the same as the educational element,” he said. “If at any point in Neocolonialism the player is learning without having fun or vice versa, the game is not doing what is supposed to be doing.”

So instead of reading about how trade routes, corporate policy, and government sanction can make and break countries, players are given the ability — and motivation — to do it themselves, from the safety of a simulation.

Adding to the surrealism is the fact that, in Neocolonialism, the world map is inverted, evoking a sense of discomfort, Alter wrote on the project’s Kickstarter page.

“You’re playing as the Man,” he noted. “You are not the Good Guys.”

But to get his educational tool out in the world, Alter is engaging in some old-fashioned capitalism himself.

In exchange for contributing $10 or more, backers can get anything from an early copy of the game and a T-shirt to special in-game titles and digital goodies.

Alter also helped ensure things got off to a good start by drafting personalized emails to friends and family, asking for support in reaching the $10,000 goal: If he doesn't hit at least that amount, he’ll get nothing.

“The Kickstarter campaign consumed a lot of time — it’s hard to say how much — and even now remains a big chunk of the average work day,” he said.

But so far, it’s working well: He’s raised over half of the necessary funds with 16 days to go, and was chosen as a Kickstarter “Staff Pick” early on.

If the campaign’s successful, he said he’ll be working on it full time from his downtown Boston co-op in order to get it ready to demo in late March at PAX East, one of the industry’s biggest shows which also happens to be based in Boston.

He said a final build would likely be ready in August.

See the Neocolonialism Kickstarter campaign, or download a playable early build of the game at Subaltern Games.