Earlier in the evening, my imaginary son asked me, “Daddy, what happens to writers when they leave gaygamer.net?” It was a difficult question, partly because i’ve never quite considered the scenario – one in which I hang up my “f*ck you, I write for the internet” shirt – but mainly because the dull ache of existence is hard to translate into child-friendly terms.
But alas, such things happen, here in our way station on the great Information Superhighway. As such, we occasionally bid adieu to our comrades. Some go on to write for other sites; some become butchers, bakers, or candlestick makers. Still others
whom we in the writing business call ‘Russians’ go on to fight a losing battle with depression and alcoholism. Yet the internet is a place of utter vastness; thus, we have the oft-forgotten category of those who go on to create their own video games. Such is the case of Joe Locastro – longtime readers might remember him by his pseudonym, “Henshin a Go Joe” – and his company, Chicago-based Level Zero Games.
As noted on the official site, Level Zero “was informally founded in 2008, and officially registered Summer 2012.” The company went on to release Node, a two-player card game, in which each player hacks and sneaks their way to victory, for the benefit of both themselves and their respective employers.
Their second offering comes in the form of a Kickstarter for Net Gain. Continuing the theme of its predecessor – and echoing the whole “unbridled private power that brings the working class to their knees” form of governance might have some unintended consequences, Net Gain sees the player in the role of a “broker” “hired by a powerful conglomerate to sabotage their competitors by any means.” A strategy-minded affair, the game invites the player to pull dirty tricks, assemble operatives to execute said tricks, and craft their dastardly system for the endless pursuit of power and profit.
As with many such games, resource management plays an important role in one’s campaign. Warcraft had gold; Command & Conquer had Tiberium. In Net Gain, the proverbial root of all evil is “assets.” These can be used to further one’s strategies – allowing for the acquisition of “shiny new gadgets, novel marketing campaigns, brilliant scientists,” and other boons to your corporate empire – in the interest of lining your pockets with cash – be it garnered from your own enterprises, or siphoned from your competitors. To shake things up, the game uses a “plots” mechanic, described in the Net Gain Kickstarter as:
“[...] small moments during a mission with unique challenges that your operatives must overcome to progress. The kinds of plots you use to reach your target can vary depending on what your target is and what exactly you intend to do! If you wish to “steal” a Personnel asset, you could choose plots that lead your team to befriend them, convincing them to flee and join your side. You might use plots to uncover dirt, blackmailing them into working for you. Or, you might just simply bribe them (simple, that is, after you sneak your operatives through layers of corporate security to get the offer to your target)!”
Operatives’ success will push the player forward; failure can cause one to be “derailed into new plots involving firefights, car chases, or other not-very-covert problems that they’ll have to overcome to get back on task.” While you may recognize that these operatives are human
you liberal p*ssy – thus, they can be apprehended by rivals, or even killed – they are but so many employee ID numbers on an Excel spreadsheet. Thus, their fates – whether they ascend to the heights of greatness, or suffer death’s dark kiss – are left to the invisible hand of the market.
Net Gain has twenty-five days left in its Kickstarter, and currently stands at just over $10,000 – not too far from its $16,000 goal. Twenty dollars will get you a copy of the finished product; other tiers – with their respective goodies – can be found at this link!