Review: Orwell

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1984 is closer than ever with developing surveillance programs and how totalitarian states use them. Orwell tries to show us what it would look like if we move towards an Orwellian society. The results are both thrilling and scary.

Imagine a society where people share and connect most aspects of their daily lives through the internet. This society is also under imminent threat of terrorism and because of this threat the government has introduced new laws that allows closer surveillance on all citizens. It sounds awfully familiar, but luckily I am still talking about a game: Orwell.

You are an operator in the new surveillance program and you are tasked with looking at possible suspects that may or may not have ties with terrorist organisations. With Orwell and your expertise the guilty must be picked from among the innocent hard working civilians. By uploading clues to the Orwell program you choose what information is used tot identify threats to society.

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After the first day at work with Orwell it becomes clear that your choices and work can have a great impact on people’s lives and proceeding carefully is advised. Information might appear trivial to you, but in connection with other clues they might become the very evidence of someone’s alleged mischief. While there are no wrong or right additions to the online files you create about suspects, there is information that you can leave out of someones dossier. This is where you as the player make choices.

The gathering and uploading of information about citizens is your job and the puzzle you have to solve to complete Orwell. While there are slightly different endings and choices you can make, in the end it will boil down to pretty much the same plot. This a missed opportunity and while playing it can be fairly frustrating if you cannot find that one bit of information that requires you to advance through the story and you end up just uploading anything you can find.

Still, the story is strong and the way the the game let’s you reflect on your actions and society itself is quite brilliant. You will steam through the five episodes the game has to offer in roughly 6 hours, because despite the gameplay hiccups, you will still want to know what it is next you will discover or learn about the Orwellian society.

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Orwell does what Dave Eggers failed to do in The Circle: take a step back from the characters involved in the system and let the reader – in this case gamer – reflect on the system itself. Only then can one comprehend the consequences of a surveillance state and grasp the idea of what is at stake. Osmotic Studios have taken the concept of 1984 and placed it in 2017 in a very convincing way. If you find dystopian societies interesting or would simply want to know more about how a totalitarian state can work in modern day society, Orwell will be a perfect match.

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