Call to Arms Entry 02: Family Commute

British ex-pat game developer, our man in Japan, nom de plume extraordinaire JC Barnett offers his satirical entry to the Call to Arms: a game that interactively expresses the challenge of surviving a Tokyo train commute.


Using the Wii balance board as a control mechanism the player must, simply, survive a commute on Tokyo's busy rail system. There will be a set of difficulty levels of increasing commute length, all played out in real time, from the "easy mode", a roughly 10 minute ride, right down to "salaryman mode", a full hour and a half of commuter Hell.

The player stands on the Wii Balance Board and must keep his balance in the face of the train's swaying and the crowd of other commuters who will try their best to pick fights with you or shove you around simply for being foreign. Special boss characters will be "broadsheet guy", the idiot who will try to read a newspaper, and "roidrage", the racist knuckledragger who will shout at you to die or go back to "your country."

On-screen a delicate balance must be held by shifting your body weight to match instructions. Sudden jolts from the train's movement or idiots will give you a very brief chance to correct your pose before you fall over and are penalised. Holding the Wiimote and nunchuck you can control your on-screen commuter's hands to slap away newspapers, though if a woman happens to be standing in front of you, the player must adjust his pose so his hands are at all times visible for fear of being accused a groper, "chikan!", at which point you'll be arrested and the game will end. Push-fights take the form of a series of balance challenges and hand motions wherein the player must fight for space with another commuter who won't grant you the room to breathe in favour of his own comfort.

Along the top of the screen is a "health bar", titled "the will to live", which constantly, slowly, depletes. The only way to top up this bar is to unbalance aggressive fellow commuters or to find a spot next to an attractive female (boy, for the female players, who can only ever play on "extreme difficulty" and must use the nunchuck to constantly elbow perverts in the groin). Once the bar is completely depleted, the player's avatar will exit the train and jump in front of it.

Special periodic challenges include covering your face when old men cough and sneeze all over you and jostling for a seat when the previous occupant disembarks. If successful the commute time will be depleted by several minutes of comfort.

If enough commercial interest can be found, a special peripheral could be created; a velcro band to be tied around your chest which, much like a blood pressure meter, would slowly fill up with air to restrict your lung capacity and, literally, crush you to death.

Successful completion of a level will unlock the "bonus mode", which is the return commute on the same ride, but with a machete, controlled by the Wiimote, and a taser, controlled with the nunchuck.

The game will not only teach you vital survival skills, but strengthen up your calves and resolve but mostly, it’s an exhausting, depressing experience, constantly jostling, readjusting your balance and gradually losing all hope in humanity and any will to live. Playing the game is living the game and if you don’t want to kill yourself after playing it, you haven’t played it correctly. The bonus mode is pure, classic fantasy fulfillment gaming at its best.

Fun for all the family!

-JC Barnett


Steve gaynor said...

I love the idea of 'gameplay as satire.' Integrating the Wii Balance Board and Mii's into the mix is just great, and makes this the personal, physical experience you'd want it to be. Also, it's hilarious.

I love how it lets the player experience something you personally go through daily, that they might never otherwise come into contact with. It's like a wonderfully mundane version of playing a soccer video game to 'see what it's like' to be a pro soccer player.

'Personal documentary' games could make up my entire library as far as I'm concerned-- collected experiences from all over the world. A film of someone's daily commute might not be so interesting, but getting to "be there" yourself is whole different story.

Sorry, I can't help getting all pretentious, even about a joke entry.

Unknown said...

This is great, it reminds me of Penn & Teller's concept of "verisimulators - games stupefyingly like reality". The one they actually developed (although I don't believe it was ever truly released) was Desert Bus.