The game is on you, Assange
Online games modelled on the Wikileaks concept are quite the rage. Rajiv Arora reports.
He may have fallen one step shy of being named as Time magazine's 'Person of the Year' and instead earned Rolling Stones' 'Rockstar of the Year' title, but the most tangible honour for WikiLeaks's Julian Assange awaited him elsewhere.
Peers in the online community of the cyberpunk have rewarded Assange, 39, with a spate of online videogames, which went viral almost in a flash.
With this, WikiLeaks' Cablegate expose joins the ranks of 9/11, the global economic downturn and the Concorde crash — some of the recent world-changing events that have inspired game developers.
There's nothing spectacular about the games per se — vapid graphics, non-riveting plots and passable sounds best describe them. But topicality, simple controls and no price tag have helped their case.
I have played two so far. The first, called WikiLeaks: The Game, has been created by a 21-year-old Dutch who goes by the name of Sebastia an Moeys and admits he '… created it as a joke, a social commentary on a developing story', and didn't anticipate the success — it's been played more than a million times over the last week.
Here, as silver-haired Assange, you're inside the Oval Office to execute the Cablegate op. Your aim is to transfer 300,000 top-secret documents from a drowsy Barack Obama's desktop computer in your USB drive without being caught by the President who wakes up now and then to set his spotless tux and catch anyone trying to stain his reputation.
After you are caught, a newspaper headline declares 'Assange caught sex offending inside the White House,' which makes one wonder if the character is modelled on a certain former US president!
As Obama's reassuring maunder — 'Let me say it as simply as I can; transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency' — echoes in the backdrop, the 'developing story' is put in perspective.
The second one, Uncle Sam vs WikiLeaks is a hard nut. Here, we go into the game after the leaks have done the damage. To avenge himself, an enraged Uncle Sam — who looks like a cross between Rocky Balboa and, er, Osama bin Laden — wants to box WikiLeaks servers.
But the leaks that the processors spit out, one each from time to time, are injurious to our brawny and goat-beard player's health; six hits on the six-pack and game over.
And that's just the tip of the berg. The indie game developers community, including a blogger who calls himself Gnome, has already got down to spinning games on WikiLeaks' individual exposes.
Would Assange's alleged 'extracurricular activities' also force their way into the gamers' minds, you ask? Your guess is as good as mine, though I doubt if such a game will ever have an official launch. In true WikiLeaks style, it will have to be leaked out.