Xbox 360 indie game satirizes oil spill and media coverage

1 Jul

Submarines attempt to slow the gulf oil spill in Crisis in the Gulf.

An independently developed game concerning the on-going oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is available for download on Xbox 360 Live Arcade.

Crisis in the Gulf, developed by Super Boise, is a tower-defense game that has players slowing the spill by attacking escaping balls of oil with submarines. The game’s official description challenges players to succeed where professional organizations have failed.

“The Government and Oil Corporations have failed to stop the oil leak. Clearly they haven’t tried TOWER DEFENSE!! Do you have what it takes to cap the leak?”

Throughout the game, a news ticker scrolls across the screen relaying satirical updates regarding the spill. A message at the beginning of the game states all logos and corporations in the game are fictitious and any resemblances are purely coincidental, but references to BP and CNN are obvious.

A free demo is available on Xbox Live Arcade as well as on the developer’s website. The full game costs one dollar and allows players to access two more difficulty levels. Each level references an oil crisis reflecting the difficulty of the game. The full game unlocks the “Exxon Valdez” and “Gulf Oil Crisis” difficulty levels.

Drew Johnson, co-owner of Super Boise, said a portion of the proceeds from Crisis in the Gulf was donated to Defenders of Wildlife. “They’re based out of Washington D.C. and are committed to protecting wildlife all over the world,” Johnson said. “They currently have people on the ground in the Gulf trying to help.”

Johnson said he and his team were motivated to create Crisis in the Gulf out of a desire to make people laugh and have a good time despite the situation.

“In times of tragedy, people occasionally need to tune out the doom and gloom media coverage they hear all day and have a good, lighthearted laugh,” Johnson said. “Late-night comedians often provide that outlet for the general public and we figured, ‘Why can’t video games be that type of outlet as well?'”

He also said the game was never meant to serve as a commentary of any kind.

“It was definitely intended to just be fun and humorous,” Johnson said. “In our opinion, video games are supposed to be entertaining, and when you play them, it’s supposed to be a time to relax, not a time to hear the developer comment on the problems of the world.”

Crisis in the Gulf's difficulty levels are based on oil disasters big and small.

Stephen Totilo, deputy editor of Kotaku, had a mixed reaction to the game.

“It’s a tower defense game and is not much more fun than you’d expect,” Totilo said. “I’m all for people making video games out of the news, though.”

Winda Benedetti, author of MSNBC’s Citizen Gamer, suggests Crisis in the Gulf can relieve the stress of the situation.

“Frustrated from weeks spent watching BP’s oil spread far and wide across the gulf? Ever wish you could swoop super-hero like to the scene and stop the evil oil in its tracks yourself? Some independent game developers have come up with a way to let you blow off steam — if not stem the flow of oil itself.”

Kobun’s Xbox Indie Page said Crisis in the Gulf isn’t worth purchasing despite its unique basis. “There’s no real value to be had here.  While it’s interesting to see such a title appearing on Xbox Indies, the last thing Xbox Indies needs is more shovelware.”

The site also notes the game’s humor and writing as lacking. “Developer Super Boise attempts to inject Crisis in the Gulf with humor skewering ‘fictional’ and ‘coincidental’ DP oil company and making oil spill related jokes throughout the game, but the lines are lame and filled with typos.”

The spill began April 20 when an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling unit occurred in the Gulf of Mexico. Xbox Live Arcade made Crisis in the Gulf available June 11. Johnson said development for the game began in early June and took three days to complete.

Johnson said Crisis in the Gulf hasn’t sold as well as Super Boise’s other games but noted a unique trend in the downloads of the game.

“The United Kingdom is usually our second largest market, but we noticed in this game that their percentage of overall downloads was way down while that of the United States and Canada were way up,” Johnson said. “Clearly the British were not a fan of this particular game.”

Despite lower sales, Johnson said he and his team have received mostly positive feedback. “Most people say they got a good laugh out of it, which was really our goal all along.”

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