Games can be great at teaching. Titles like Influent attempt to game-ify the process of learning a new language, while games like Papers, Please opt for a more “immersive” approach, teaching the player not about real-world events specifically, but about the circumstances that no doubt surrounded the events it parallels. What I find particularly interesting, though, is the games that don’t so much “teach” as they “encourage to learn”. I’d argue that games like the Civilization series are a perfect example of this; while they don’t specifically mirror history (unless Gandhi was secretly a psychotic warmonger), I know of several friends who have started researching historical civilizations and figures simply because they got a taste of the available knowledge in a game of Civ. It’s in this category of games that Terroir finds itself, both to its benefit and detriment.
I arrived in town bright and early, and was quickly greeted by a company representative. Almost immediately, they began rattling through their “best practices” list that every new hire has to hear. To be honest, I didn’t really mind; this wasn’t my first run as mayor, but, seeing as I’d been out of the game for a while, it was good to get a refresher course. Something seemed off, though. The rep’s ear-to-ear grin and exuberant shaking of my hand seemed to mask the fact that they were more than a little scatter-brained. Within minutes, they jumped from the acquisition of Lings (citizens of the town) to resource gathering and management, and then into combat and trading.
“But wait, how do I—”
“Aaaaand that’s it! Good luck!” cried the rep as they dived past a Mushface (a race of lumbering mushroom-folk) into the town’s dimensional portal. I looked at the Mushface, confusion and worry plastered all over my face, but he just shrugged and walked through the portal. An auspicious start.
I found Block’hood to be deeply unsettling.
Now, that’s something of an odd emotion to feel when playing a cheery, colourful city-builder, no? With its intricately detailed cities (known as “‘Hoods”) that can consist of dozens of structures carefully stacked on one another, it seems like a lovingly optimistic view of the future. Catwalks criss-cross between constructs, providing elevated walkways to navigate the vertical landscape. Glasses clink in bars, internet cafes emit bleeps and whirs, and clothing stores sell the trendiest fashions to citizens. It’s a veritable utopia.
Suddenly, things collapse. Businesses fall into disrepair. Apartments cave in and lose all sense of life. Protesters line the streets as black clouds swirl in the sky. The veil is lifted, and the weight of everything you’ve done comes crashing down with the city you worked so hard to build. The clothes in those stores were manufactured in sweatshops around the corner, which in turn received their supplies from pollution-producing cotton fields. The internet cafes distributed electronics that were made with plastic, and therefore, oil. The apartments were constructed on the graves of trees, driving out assorted wildlife in the process.