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Can you be swayed to betray the 1990s megacorporation in the CorpoNation review?
Culture Games

Can you be swayed to betray the 1990s megacorporation in the CorpoNation review?


As an employee at the company Ringo, you work as a lab technician whose main task is to categorize genetic samples into four different tubes. You have to do this task all day, every day. Each sample is distinguished by a particular shape, pattern, or basic icon and it is your responsibility to ensure that they are placed in their designated tubes. Failure to do so may result in a deduction of your pay. To make things more complicated, the specific shapes, patterns, and other confusing requirements are changed daily by your anonymous supervisors. This is the world of CorpoNation.

Those who notice similarities to the award-winning game Papers, Please are correct. However, while that game focused on the harsh realities of immigration, this game delves into the dehumanization of workers in a corporate environment where they are essentially prisoners in a capitalist machine. Sorting tasks is not the only thing players do. Each night, they return to their pod apartments and log onto a computer reminiscent of the 1990s to read mundane news about Ringo, chat with co-workers through instant messaging, and play state-approved video games. There is also a catalog where players can purchase customizations for their rooms, and frequent emails encourage them to put all their earnings back into the economy. The vintage Mac OS-style interface and witty humor effectively create a sinister retro-futuristic atmosphere for the game. Similar to last year’s hit game Videoverse, players can uncover bits of story by chatting with fellow workers, making for a nostalgic technological experience.

However, this is just the start. As time passes and the arbitrary modifications to your daily tasks become more convoluted, you start to receive covert messages from a rebellious guerrilla group operating within the company. Should you report them? Additionally, where do insubordinate employees go and what is the composition of the food pills being provided to you? These enigmas and narrative threads are masterfully portrayed through the encumbering medium of your computer screen and work email system. The subdued palette of blue and white, accompanied by glitchy pixel art, intensifies the ominous atmosphere – there appears to be no escape from this monotonous routine. Or is there?

CorpoNation is a witty and thought-provoking examination of late-stage capitalism. In this world, the time you spend as a lab worker is constantly being bought and exploited, and your attention is constantly being demanded even when you are not working. The mandatory video games you are made to play during your free time – a click-and-point version of Street Fighter and a simplified version of Solitaire – serve as a commentary on the trend of live-service gaming, where play has become a never-ending cycle of repetitive tasks and item collecting.

See it, sort it … CorpoNation: The Sorting Process

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The clever aspect of CorpoNation is its use of common compulsion techniques to manipulate individuals into becoming unquestioning workers, driven to exceed performance expectations in order to earn a higher rating and afford luxurious items such as a high-end gaming chair, corporate branded bedding, or even nutrition pills. This makes the threat of the menacing hacking group at the center of the plot even more impactful. In order to aid the group, you must interfere with your daily performance goals, risking defaulting on bills or going without food. Similar to Papers, Please, the game places you in a nightmarish and soulless machine that exploits the familiar elements of gaming for a disturbing effect.

You depart from this chic, concise, and innovative game with a sense of liberation, but later, as you sit at your computer responding to countless work emails or playing a repetitive live-service fantasy game, you may find yourself questioning – am I truly free?

Source: theguardian.com