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About the StoryA new government's coming. A populist government looking to shake up the status quo. Your job in the Advertising Corrections Team is safe enough, but as tensions rise and regulations tighten you know that the only way to get through it all is to keep your head down and focus on your work. Isn't it?
With knife-edge choices between compliance and rebellion, you must weigh up which consequence is worse.
14th Place (tie) - 24th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2018)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:Technically strong political thriller that's a bit one-sided in its politics, December 21, 2018
by SpikeOstrich is a choice-based political thriller. You work for the government's "advertising corrections" team. A right-wing populist leader with strong fascist tendencies comes to power. As the story progresses you have to decide how much you want to continue to support the government's increasingly restrictive rules on what is allowed to be printed and how much you want to support the movement protesting the government.
I had two strong, opposing reactions to Ostrich. One had to do with the gameplay, which I found to be quite good at conveying the feeling of participating in a repressive regime. For example, the mechanic of slowly adding more and more restrictions was particularly effective. The cumulative feel of all of that censorship was overpowering in ways that I think were intended. Also, the game has one particular location be the source of more and more events that illustrate the consequences of the new regime's oppressive policies. Some political issues can feel abstract; showing how one's daily routine is actually influenced by political decisions is a good way of dramatizing those decisions. In addition, the PC's continual notice of whether the trains were on time or late was interesting. I kept thinking of that old saying about Mussolini that at least he made the trains run on time, which I'm sure was the intent here.
The other strong reaction I had was to the game's political voice. My preference for art that tackles political issues is for them to engage multiple perspectives. I think it's fine to take a strong stand on an issue, but (in general) I think political art should at least show that it understands why people may think differently on that issue in addition to taking that strong stand.
And I don't think Ostrich does a good job with that. The kinds of policies that a repressive government attempts to force on its citizens can fall all over the political spectrum; all you need to do is look at 20th century history to find repressive left-wing regimes and repressive right-wing regimes. The new government in Ostrich, however, feels to me to be repressive in exactly the kinds of ways that a 2018 progressive most fears. It's like the embodiment of a left-wing nightmare. At one point the text even gives you the option of choosing "progressive" vs. "dangerously unpatriotic" in a newspaper article that you're editing, with the clear implication that "progressive" is good and anything else is bad. This feels too easy to me. Since it seems the primary intent of Ostrich is to give the player the experience of being complicit in a repressive political regime, I think the game would have been stronger if it were more universal and not so clearly aligned with one side of the political spectrum.
Of course, other players' mileage may vary on politics in art, as well as on Ostrich's political voice.
In sum, I found Ostrich to be a technically strong political thriller whose effect was somewhat marred by the fact that it only presents one side of some important political questions of the day.
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