When I came up with the idea of writing a text adventure based around the Pakistan elections, I had no idea the game would go beyond my small circle of friends, much less get thousands of plays, leading to a mobile app version, and even more plays.
The game was born out of a set of (seemingly unrelated, except in hindsight) occurrences:
1. As a Valentine’s day gift, I wrote my wife a choose your own adventure (short) book based around fictional characters whose stories I have been narrating to her as a mean to put her to sleep.
2. I got a sudden urge to download and read hundreds of comics over the last few months – I wanted to write one. I wanted to write, just not another novella. I wanted another dimension to the writing. I also wanted to do a ‘first’ for Pakistan, as that has always been my obsession – do something no one else has done, at least in my country, for my country.
3. On a total whim, I downloaded Wizard’s Choice to play on my iPad (it was popular, and had the word Wizard in it). I was hooked. I had forgotten how truly amazing text adventures were. I also realized, the success of Wizard’s Choice meant that text adventures are poised to make a comeback due to the very nature of mobile phones, touchscreens etc.
4. I downloaded and played Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead (all chapters). This too was in large parts a visually realized text adventure game to my mind. It all clicked, and then I found Quest – the text adventure creator that enabled me to just go ahead and create what was bubbling inside me.
Six feverish days of writing later, my adventure game was born!
Its tough to decide what’s better about this game – a largely accurate description of elite bewilderment at the social and bureaucratic mechanisms of Pakistan, or the fact that it’s extremely fucking funny.
The game is intricately detailed, which means that beyond the process of making choices and scoring arbitrary points, you are also reading into a quite plausible account of just about everything (from Aalia’s rejection to Allah Ditta’s joints to the bribe to the thullas) that a prospective burger bacha can experience while figuring out this voting business.
In that way, its a far truer depiction of what this election would mean for the people you know than anything you read about in overly sentimental op-eds and music videos.
And hopefully, if you manage to cast your vote eventually, you’ll walk away with a feeling that’s probably going to be a lot closer to the reality than those inflated ideas of self-actualisation and harmony with the universe everyone else claims its going to be.
A shortish CYOA piece that combines the Teenage Dirtbag tone (familiar from a million My Crappy Apartment games) with the game-as-zine approach of recent Twine offerings. The difference from normal My Apartment is that instead of being a cynical asshole middle-class American kid, you’re a cynical asshole Pakistani kid from a class that’s privileged enough to share a lot of middle-class Western tastes.
In line with its Teenage Dirtbag tone, its perspective is the sort of South Park nihilism where the only function of ethics is to allow you to be scornfully aware that everyone’s morally bankrupt, and to enable sick humour to function. The protagonist cares more about cute girls, Facebook and the next Game of Thrones episode than actual political issues or religion – and, in this counterfactual universe where he is motivated to vote for no very clear reason, there’s not much to suggest that changing his mind would be worth it.
The game is largely linear, with significant variations depending on whether you go to vote with your metalhead buddy, a cute girl from your college, or your inept, shotgun-toting security guard. Invariably your polling registration is messed up and you have to venture into the violent slums of Murdabad to cast your vote, leading to slapstick culture-clash scenes. The main fear of your wealthy contemporaries is Taliban attacks on the polls, but the real obstacles to voting are more to do with massive income disparity, apathy, corruption, everyday violence and a society deeply inured to all of this.
If you do manage to vote, there’s no political effect; in fact, there’s no political outcome even mentioned, confirming the general sense that it’s taken for granted that nothing will change. Rather, voting (and telling people how you voted) is more of a social gambit, allowing you to get the girl or party with your security guard. In at least one ending, your hipster buddy votes for the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami party for ironic purposes. Similarly, the game frequently claims to give you points – positive for looking good, negative for being a terrible person or just looking lame -, which are not actually recorded and have no impact on the story.
It’s a somewhat rough effort; spelling and punctuation occasionally wobble, and the integration of graphics is spotty. It seems at least partially addressed to an outside audience, explaining some of its dialect and references, but by no means all (and sometimes the explanation is no more enlightening than the original). In at least one ending the game seemed to give me the wrong companion. Very little information is given about the candidates you’re voting for; this obviously reflects the low-information, low-engagement stance of the protagonist, but it does make it harder for an outside reader to grasp things. (The semiotics of having the One Pound Fish guy represent the PML-N totally elude me. Possibly it’s a sick burn if you’re up on Pakistani politics; possibly it’s a throwaway YouTube joke.)
I don’t feel qualified to rate this, but it’s definitely the most interesting Quest game I’ve played to date.
That was a really funny game and well written! I expected a text-adventure, but a gamebook was fine, too. It was very short, but that encouraged me to replay it several times and I liked how the different companions changed the descriptions down to small details (like their behavior in the car).
I think the first time I scored a – 1 quadrillian points but it was hilarious anyway. The humor was sometimes a little too dark for my taste (killing childrens), but the story felt “real” and at the same part totally crazy.
I learned something about pakistan, too, and learning while having fun in a game is the best kind of learning ^^ I would love to see more adventures in pakistan and I wouldn’t mind some more background informations.
It was a really well written, creative and hilarious game! Loved it!!! I took the doped up security guard with me to vote on my first round. Can’t wait to go back and explore other options – I have a feeling they may not turn out quite as well as this one did…
Very insightful and evocative regarding both day to day Karachi life and the PK election process. But you don’t even notice you are learning, given that it is so much fun… Nice use of pics to complement the text as I thought they added a lot to the atmosphere, sometimes chillingly so. Overall, I really, really enjoyed this. 🙂
This was funny, smart and insightful. I played it about 5 times so far and plan to play even more because each choice gives you a new perspective. To be relevent and have poignant commentary on a situation while also being clever and entertaining is a rare trick and this text adventure embodies all of that.
After hours, I have played every single possible choice in this game and they are all hilarious and smart. I love the idea of a text-adventure about elections is especially interesting because it is, after all, a matter of making choices and living with the consequences.
Plus, I probably won’t vote (physically) so at least I got to go to Murdabad.
Incisive Satire with an urban understanding of Pakistani Rich Elite Youth Ennui as well as the down low on what the parties represent to this motley crew. Encouraging People to Vote – What’s not to Like ? !
This is a game that will keep you laughing at every decision you make. Besides it the scenario pictured is exactly what’s in the society. Its a nice way to motivate the people playing game to atleast cast a vote 🙂 though in a very satirical manner. HATS OFF to the developer.
It keeps the reader interested at every point in the game. Extremely funny. Entertaining. And just what a person would need to get out of a bad mood/stress! I simply loved it and I’m sure every other person would too. Please keep it up!
I loved this game. I’m from India, and did not know the details of the political or social scene in Pakistan. I found while playing this game was a hell lot of fun (‘cheetaaay!’ cracked me up) it taught me a few things too. I learned about the political options and the social structure. In the end, I could see where the protagonist (and those like him) stood, the hopelessness and the hope and the cynicism and still the hope, the enormousness of the challenge ahead and the refusal to give up.
I realized that while we tend to take democracy for granted, it’s a precious thing, if only because it can bring people together. So by the end, I had developed something like solidarity. Here’s to you, rich boy!
The game’s pretty interesting. Reminds me of the old games like Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacles etc. Hope to see more from you, Text Adventures! Noman Bashir – May 1, 2013 – Samsung Galaxy S2 with version 1.0
Awesome experience as a I voted for IK nd got my Secret Crush….two at a time..I was on fire..! Abdurehman Zia – May 1, 2013
Nice little game. I was waiting for it to release. Played it earlier though, this time I’m gonna take my bachi 😉 Faria Syed – May 1, 2013 – Samsung Galaxy S2
Awesome! Best. Bester. Bestest
Love this easy to play adventure game. Navigation and story are smooth. Super fun and can be played multiple times! I’ve played all characters at least once and can’t wait to see what happens when I make a different choice. Now go play the game!