GDC 2013: ‘Pipe Trouble’ merges politics with video games [video]

softonic GDC iconVideo games are often viewed as escapism but sometimes a video game comes along and completely obliterates that misconception. Pipe Trouble is a mobile game for Android and iOS tablets that does just that by merging politics and video games. The game was created by Pop Sandbox to raise awareness of the ecological costs of natural gas development in British Colombia, Canada.

The game has recently been getting a lot of bad press for allegedly promoting eco-terrorism. The premise of the game is to help develop a natural gas pipeline with the least ecological impact. If you build a pipe through a lake or trees, protestors begin to picket your pipeline, sometimes causing damage to the pipeline. Critics slam Pipe Trouble for encouraging eco-terrorism but that’s not the case, according to its developers. We spoke with Alex Jansen from Pop Sandbox and he emphasized that Pipe Trouble is meant to be over-the-top satire. Jansen wants players to learn more about the current controversy with pipelines in BC and to come up with a conclusion by themselves.

Pipe Trouble is a fun game with whimsical cartoon graphics. The gameplay is very challenging as you have to please both environmentalists as well as the energy companies. Use too many resources to build around the landscape and you’ll go into debt. If you build through trees and lakes, you’ll have to face the wrath of protests, injunctions, and fines. I found the game to be very nuanced about the way it presents each side of the argument. Pipe Trouble doesn’t push a political agenda in players’ faces, but instead calls for critical thinking and evaluation of both sides of the argument.

At the end of the day, Pipe Trouble is actually a very fun and challenging game.  It has an awesome score created by Toronto punk band, Fucked Up. It’s a shame that the game got so much bad press that it had to disassociate itself from the David Suzuki Foundation, a Canadian organization that works to preserve nature.  Pop Sandbox originally intended for part of the proceeds from Pipe Trouble to be donated to the David Suzuki Foundation.

Pipe Trouble has been out on both iOS and Android for a while. You can learn more about the game here.

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