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November 2, 2017 7:40 PM   Subscribe

No, this video game is not ‘eco-terrorism’ [The Verge] “...Minnesota lawmakers and oil lobbyists have slapped a terrorism label on an unexpected new target: a game about a bird. Specifically, a thunderbird. The video game Thunderbird Strike [Vimeo], created by Native designer and Michigan State University professor Elizabeth LaPensée, transforms players into a thunderbird flying across Canada and through the Great Lakes. In dozens of indigenous traditions throughout North America, thunderbirds are considered sacred beings that can bring renewal or destruction; in the game, you restore fallen caribou and buffalo to life, and strike construction and oil equipment with divine lightning. "My goal was to examine the modern through the lens of our stories," LaPensée told The Verge in an interview.”

• Video game prompts charges of 'eco-terrorism' from oil pipeline advocates [MPR News]
“But Toby Mack, president of the Energy Equipment and Infrastructure Alliance, said his group is concerned the game could inspire users to do damage to actual pipeline infrastructure. "We don't think there's any place for this kind of material being out there," he said. "The consequences of somebody committing an act such as you can on the video game is just horrific." The game doesn't specifically mention Enbridge Energy's proposal to replace and expand its existing Line 3 pipeline with a larger line along a new route that would nearly double the amount of oil it carries through northern Minnesota from the Oil Sands region of Alberta, Canada. That proposal has been the subject of growing protest from tribes and Native American groups opposed to the pipeline crossing land near reservations where tribal members hunt, fish and gather wild rice. State regulators plan to make a final decision on the pipeline in April 2018.”
• When Big Oil Attacks Your Game [Gamasutra]
“With breathless pearl-clutching, a Fox News.com editor describes some of the game's content: "The oil and gas industry is described as having an ‘insatiable greed' which caused the Indigenous people to cry out ‘for the return of the thunderbird people and their searing lightning.'" Our culture is saturated with self-styled defenders of free speech who only seem committed to the principle when it defends bigotry or far-right extremism, and sadly, gaming is no different. Toby Mack is employing arguments that were essentially debunked in the 90s--social science has not been able to establish a causal link between videogames and violence--and have been used by conservatives to antagonize this industry. Mack also threatens the small pot of funding that made Thunderbird Strike possible, caterwauling about a micron of public money from the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council being used to produce the title.”
• Destroy Oil Pipelines as a Thunderbird in this New Video Game [Motherboard]
“The game is a blast to play. You control a big greenish-blue thunderbird—hand-drawn and animated in what LaPensée calls a traditional woodland style—that flies around the screen and charges up electricity. Players can use its thunder to destroy vehicles and construction sites, or they can use it to restore the local wolf, caribou, and buffalo populations. Since it's impossible to lose the game—only garner higher and higher scores—LaPensée said players can experience it however they want. "The game doesn't judge you," she said. Accompanied by music from Casey Koyczan, who also does the Street-Fighter-II-esque voiceover work, the three levels depict Alberta's oil sands, then the prairies of Saskatchewan (where pipelines are currently being built), before finally reaching the Straits of Mackinac, the waterway that connects Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. When players reach the final level, they fight the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac, now transformed into a huge metallic snake.”
• Video game enabling fantasy pipeline attacks draws fire [Washington Post]
“The game’s website previously said it had been developed “in affiliation with” the university’s Games for Entertainment and Learning Lab. The wording was changed Wednesday night to read, “With gratitude to Michigan State University.” LaPensee said in a phone interview she deleted the reference to the lab to clarify that she and collaborators had produced the game independently, not as a university project. She said she began working on it a year before joining the university’s Department of Media and Information in 2016 and did not use the lab’s equipment or funds. The Arrowhead Regional Arts Council in Duluth, Minnesota, provided a grant that covered some of the costs, she said. “Thunderbird Strike” is intended as a work of art and a tool for educating people about how oil development has damaged the environment, LaPensee said. “It certainly is not encouraging anyone to commit eco-terrorism,” she said, adding that people should play it before passing judgment. While players can hurl lightning at oil equipment, they also can target people and animal figures with the purpose of bringing them to life, LaPensee said.”
posted by Fizz (34 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
 
It looks gorgeous and fun and I want to play it, and the thought of greedy polluting oil execs feeling offended just makes it that much more attractive. Petty assholes can't stand being called on their assholery.
posted by emjaybee at 8:11 PM on November 2, 2017 [18 favorites]


I'm pretty sure I've heard of this whole series of games called "Grand Theft Auto" where you can run people over with cars intentionally, which...sounds a lot like actual terrorism? Buuut....yeah, we wouldn't want people to get ideas about becoming birds and attacking oil refineries.
posted by daisystomper at 8:31 PM on November 2, 2017 [70 favorites]


“But Toby Mack, president of the Energy Equipment and Infrastructure Alliance, said his group is concerned the game could inspire users to do damage to actual pipeline infrastructure. "We don't think there's any place for this kind of material being out there,"

Well, my dude, I have to tell you, nobody gives a fucking fuck at a rolling doughnut what you think.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:34 PM on November 2, 2017 [25 favorites]


Great post! (one of many many many) :)
posted by supercrayon at 8:51 PM on November 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


Game designers: stay in your lane. Stick to headshots and blowing things up, or you could be doing terrorism.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:52 PM on November 2, 2017 [3 favorites]


Mario Cart = Speeding
GTA = Auto theft
Dungeon Keeper = Slavery and Satanism
Counterstrike = Murder
posted by Mitheral at 9:02 PM on November 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


Sounds like a cracker!
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:07 PM on November 2, 2017


The Just Cause series has tons of oil facilities to blow up, including pipelines and offshore platforms in volume 2 and adding massive open pit mines in 3. You can do this using, you know, guns - rather than mystical lightning.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 9:39 PM on November 2, 2017 [6 favorites]


We can cut to the chase and state the obvious. GTA and Just Cause don't advocate for anything which will actually bring change. Blowing stuff up in those games is just good clean fun, and no one's saying you should try this at home. The powers-that-be aren't the slightest bit bothered by them.

Things which advocate change, and seem like they might resonate with a wide audience, scares the hell out of those with vested interests in the status quo.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 10:04 PM on November 2, 2017 [20 favorites]


Related: Trying to play a GTA game without breaking any laws. Video games became all about breaking things and killing people long ago... the only difference is what things you break and what people you kill.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:17 PM on November 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


The Just Cause series has tons of oil facilities to blow up

It's like none of these turkeys played Zaxxon on the ColecoVision in 1982. I was blowing up video game oil facilities before it was cool. In space! (Actually, it was phenomenally cool.) I even saw that Steven Seagal movie where he saves the environment by exploding an Alaskan oil refinery. None of that ever inspired me to go out and commit eco-terrorism.

Maybe it's the fact that oil companies act like villains and have armed mercenaries running around the U.S. that makes them seem like a natural bad guy in this timeline.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:36 PM on November 2, 2017 [10 favorites]


Enbridge is absolutely blanketing my corner of the internet with advertisements and has been for months, so I figure they must be trying to cover for something pretty awful.

This just confirms it; they are so morally bankrupt that they would call an art game eco terrorism, just to deflect people from confronting the realities of what they do.

We cannot get off of fossil fuels soon enough.
posted by dbx at 1:45 AM on November 3, 2017 [6 favorites]


I earned a third of my living as an arborist for twelve years, about half that in Denver, CO, and was contracted by a crew of Native Americans a few times. I’m a smoker and the brand at the time happened to be American Spirits. During a break, one of the guys took an interest, so I handed over the pack and he took one out and examined its side, upon which every American Spirit cigarette has a printed Thunderbird. They’d already formed a small circle around him by this time and when he pointed to it with an index finger, they heartily laughed and chortled dismissively. I don’t always tell this story because it presents a minority as single-minded and on many issues these guys were not, such as how sacred the Devil’s Tower is in regard to repellers.

That pipeline pisses me off to no end and corporates commenting to “terror” in terms of a video game with all the non-virtual ecological damage they have wrought is exponentially maddening.

Arguing what “influences” people sure is convincing. It’s readily applied by many here on MF when it comes to what’s “shitty”, such as cartoons and search suggestions.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 1:56 AM on November 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


It's funny to watch the PR and legal departments of the oil industry -- the gigantic multinational corporate bad guys who are causing warfare and climate change -- try to look like victims.
posted by pracowity at 3:03 AM on November 3, 2017 [4 favorites]


We live in a world where a video game about disrupting oil infrastructure is "terrorism" and one about killing Nazis is racist against whites.

It is not a good world.
posted by uncleozzy at 4:41 AM on November 3, 2017 [11 favorites]


No, it’s not a good world, but it does have some cool games.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 4:50 AM on November 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


I don't even play video games, but I would learn to play that one. Screw the dirty energy industry.
posted by mermayd at 5:09 AM on November 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


people should play it before passing judgment.

I'm not normally one to download miscellaneous .zip files claiming to contain a fun game, but all you commenters here judging that this game is admirable, good fun, somehow comparable to GTA, and definitely not terrorism, all clearly without having actually tried playing it at all, you drove me to do it.

It's okay, I guess. Great art style and good music, if a bit repetitively applied. Gameplay is at the level my (non-gamer) grandmother could probably figure out. Guessing which button shoots lightning (it's the space bar) was the most challenging part. The sign reading "No pipelines on indigenous land" is the only textual message I saw, and personally I don't find that objectionable, just slightly confusing in that I don't know what non-indigenous land would be, exactly. Any geologists care to comment? The game does demand that you zap vaguely oil-infrastructure-shaped icons, and says "fatal strike" in a perhaps sinister-sounding voice when you do. They don't explode or anything. 4 stars out of 10 as a game, 10000000 bonus points for getting the oil industry to help with marketing it.
posted by sfenders at 6:03 AM on November 3, 2017 [3 favorites]


In Australia they banned Mark Ecko's Getting Up because it was about graffiti, i.e., a crime.
posted by acb at 6:10 AM on November 3, 2017


It's really remarkable how enormous wealth of the kind that most people simply cannot imagine, wealth that would stagger even the kings and aristocrats of earlier eras plainly isn't enough for some men. They can't get by with merely being able to indulge in a lifestyle denied to all but 1% of 1% of the human race, last minute vacations to impossibly luxurious tropical resorts, living quarters with million dollar views of the city skyline or staggeringly majestic mountain ranges, the most incredible food, safety and security for themselves and all their children and grandchildren and hangers-on.

No, they have to be spared all criticism as well. Because God forbid anybody suggest that they are in any way flawed people like the rest of us, or that any of their decisions might be in any sense ethically or morally wrong. Apparently the very idea, in this mindframe, is grounds for legal action.

Fuck. These. People.
posted by Ipsifendus at 6:31 AM on November 3, 2017 [19 favorites]


Yeah, fighting big oil companies to protect the environment and maybe slow global wamring is certainly "eco-terrorism". Just like my mom used to engage in regular domestic terrorism by forcing me to brush my teeth, demanding I eat three square meals a days, and brutally threatening me that if I didn't get a full eight hours of sleep at night my school day would be torture. I can scarcely believe she didn't make the FBI's most wanted list with that fiendish agenda.
posted by gusottertrout at 7:08 AM on November 3, 2017 [3 favorites]


There is more than one commercial on local Minnesota TV that is using an older white man who is a "small business owner" to try to make us feel sorry for the oil companies. One is a gas station owner and the other a farmer and they both talk about how the cost of fuel affects them. The farmer version has the cutest little calf in it and it makes me mad that they use it for such gross propaganda.
posted by soelo at 7:55 AM on November 3, 2017 [4 favorites]


I'm not normally one to download miscellaneous .zip files claiming to contain a fun game

Hm, I could have sworn this was hosted on Itch.io rather than, like, a random Dropbox link. Guess not.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:30 AM on November 3, 2017


Absolutely influenced by this game. Absolutely.
Can't talk now. Furiously trying to fly and project divine lightning.
posted by Naberius at 9:25 AM on November 3, 2017 [3 favorites]


There is more than one commercial on local Minnesota TV that is using an older white man who is a "small business owner" to try to make us feel sorry for the oil companies.

I see these types of commercials quite often. Big Oil companies that are trying to present themselves as if they're your next door neighbor or the victim in these situations. As if we're to ignore their massive wealth and political/social influence as they move into various communities and disrupt all manner of things: environment, small-business, homes, etc.
posted by Fizz at 9:27 AM on November 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


Don't give them your money -- that's the eco-terrorism that hurts oil companies most. Use economic pressure against them until they're terrified of losing their jobs.
posted by pracowity at 9:39 AM on November 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


The fact that I couldn't figure out how to destroy the pipeline/snake final boss in this (attractive, but tedious) game seems somehow appropriate.

Having played it, this is just a cute art project game with a message, not some great threat. My only regret is that I didn't have enough lightning to bring everyone back to life.
posted by Secretariat at 10:07 AM on November 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


Related: Trying to play a GTA game without breaking any laws.

I used to know the world's sweetest eight year old kid, whose mother let him play simply because he would play the game exactly like this, and it was so bloody adorable.

Watching him wait patiently at a red light for people to cross was excruciating but beautiful.
posted by rokusan at 2:11 PM on November 3, 2017 [6 favorites]


Hilarious, not the pipelines! This makes me want to brainstorm other games that would get them in a tizz, a turn based strategy about capturing oil fields as national parks, a city sim where you orchestrate the slow but inevitable conversion to green energy sources, that car bonus stage from Street Fighter, but your character is an avatar of nature.
posted by lucidium at 3:14 PM on November 3, 2017 [4 favorites]


Watching him wait patiently at a red light for people to cross was excruciating but beautiful.

Too pure for this world. May he always maintain this level of awesome.
posted by Fizz at 3:48 PM on November 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


Killing brown people: fine.

Magical beings blowing up pipelines: not.

Got it.
posted by jonnay at 5:13 PM on November 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


It's really remarkable how enormous wealth of the kind that most people simply cannot imagine, wealth that would stagger even the kings and aristocrats of earlier eras plainly isn't enough for some men.

I am coming around to the point of view that money is not the motivator for an awful lot of hyper-succesful people; the opportunity to express status through dominance is. Money is a tool, a scorecard, an expression and a symptom, but the object of power, as Orwell put it, is power.

Maybe that's obvious to most adults, but it's something that's been a long time coming, as a heartfelt realization, for this one. I feel like I see the desperate need to dominate lurking behind everything now, from stories about police brutality, to the president's behavior, to white supremacists complaining about... something, to movies and TV shows and misogyny and on and on.
posted by Western Infidels at 6:21 PM on November 3, 2017 [7 favorites]


Well, my dude, I have to tell you, nobody gives a fucking fuck at a rolling doughnut what you think.

I expect Trump does.
posted by flabdablet at 5:56 AM on November 5, 2017


Toby Mack must have never heard of the Streisand Effect. I wouldn't have found out about this game if it hadn't been called some kind of sabotage training sim. I don't think it's going to take the world by storm, but it has certainly spread awareness thanks to his inadvertent advertising (inadvertising?) of it.
posted by subocoyne at 10:56 AM on November 6, 2017


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