You are staring at a map of the world, except it is not the world that you remember. It is upside-down. It is a bit unsettling, but you continue to bankrupt countries, gaining more power and more money to put into your Swiss bank account. You ruin everything. This isn’t exactly the real world. This is Neocolonialism, a PC video game created by local studio Subaltern Games.
The game, currently in alpha and available on the company’s website, is the first part of a larger plan to bring high-quality educational games to the market. Because in the end, it is not just about winning or losing—it is also about learning the consequences of your actions and understanding the theories at work, according to the game’s creator Seth Alter. It is about gaining knowledge.
“You’re supposed to take a step back and think about your actions, which a lot of people are doing,” Alter said. “In the end, you’ve learned something even more important.”
Players learn about the current state of neocolonialism, or post-World War II corporate colonialism, as well as dependency theory, a Marxist theory of economics that states that capital flows from the hands of the poor to the wealthy; that the richer countries are enriched by the impoverished. You play against friends as bankers that seek to control all of the world’s assets by manipulating the International Monetary Fund and international governments, and then liquidating your assets.
The terminology seems complicated, but Neocolonialism takes this idea and seeks to teach its players about the economic consequences of such a system without utilizing mechanics common in most educational games.
“You don’t need any sort of assessment to determine if you can understand the material.
You cannot win the game without understanding dependency theory. It’s the same exact thing as the mechanics.”
Alter is attempting to employ a style of gameplay that uses aspects of both education and fun, something that many video games of this genre do not do. Some games are fun but not educational, and some games claim to be educational but are too boring to obtain any value. Alter believes that this is because teachers and developers do not communicate enough to create proper educational games.
In the case of Neocolonialism, Alter was originally a teacher—he most recently taught middle school math. He quit his job to work on the game full time, so he knows both worlds.
With this knowledge and the potential success of the game, Alter hopes to continue to work on educational games, and steer the genre into a different, and more satisfying direction. His kind of game has no place in the classroom,
but teaching the player something such as economics all while having fun is the ultimate goal. As Alter says, it’s about “enriching the soul of the player.”
“This is very much a new niche,” said Alter on the game’s potential influence. “There are very few games like it. Educational games that are equally fun, there are very few.”
His potential next project is another piece of social commentary, this time on education reform. The player runs a school in a management simulator where the students have to remain gears. If they turn into humans, things become way more complicated. Thanks to a successful Kickstarter that wrapped up in early February, and current positive responses to the game, Subaltern Games shouldn’t have a problem with creating it.
“I have a vision of what I want games to do and what I want education to do, and I hope to further that.”