Welcome to Dumpland, where Humpel Dumpty rules supreme! Reigning from the thousands of televisions scattered across the land, Dumpty has deployed his henchmen to imprison swathes of the population in impenetrable darkness. As “Antifa,” our gas-mask-wearing, Molotov-cocktail-wielding hero, you know what you must do: free the people by smashing Dumpty’s TVs and crushing—literally—his prison guards by jumping on their heads.
Such is the world of Antifa, a new game that lets players fight a thinly veiled Trump in all of its ridiculousness. Players smash televisions to discover hit points and “spicy cocktails” that set henchmen ablaze, all on their way to releasing the imprisoned inhabitants of Dumpland and confronting Humpel Dumpty himself. It is of course a silly satire, but the anti-fascists politics of its creator and their union are no joke.
Antifa was created by a developer who goes by the pseudonym Wobby Dev. Released for free on itch.io, a popular platform for independent video games, the _Super Mario World_-style side-scroller is meant to be a friendly introduction to antifascism for gamers who might otherwise only know the movement from sensational media coverage.
“The impulse behind making the game Antifa was simply a perceived lack of overtly antifascist computer games,” Wobbly Dev said. “Due in large part to a general misunderstanding of the historical and contemporary importance of the antifascist movement, I wanted to make a game which was approachable, cute, and unabashedly antifascist in its content.”
Players can enjoy Antifa as they would any classic video game, breaking boxes to earn bonuses, jumping on enemies to squish them, and facing a boss at the end of each level. But the game’s politics are equally apparent. In the world designed by Wobbly Dev, the player must defeat an orange-faced tyrant who blathers on the television, beckoning his followers to do his dirty work. It’s not a far cry from what antifascists across the United States have been saying since the 2016 presidential election—namely that Trump is fueling a new wave of fascism that must be confronted by everyday people if it’s to be defeated.
“The game connects to my politics in as much as I am an antifascist,” says Wobbly Dev. “Anyone who is not pro-fascism should be able to proudly announce that they are antifascist.”
A slightly less obvious political reference can be found in Antifa’s opening credits, before the start screen. Here Wobbly Dev includes the motto and logo of the Industrial Workers of the World, an international labor union of which they are a member and delegate. IWW members are also known as “Wobblies,” hence Wobbly Dev’s pseudonym.
According to Wobblies of the World: A Global History of the IWW, the union was founded in Chicago in 1905 and soon became known for its radicalism. At a time when women, people of color, and “unskilled” workers were generally excluded from the labor movement, the IWW not only accepted all members of the working class, but was openly and militantly anti-fascist. Wobblies in the early 20th century were involved in street fights with the KKK and volunteered for combat in the Spanish Civil War to oppose Francisco Franco’s fascist coup. More recently, IWW members have challenged white supremacists in Charlottesville and travelled to Syria to fight against ISIS.
In the IWW’s antifascist history, Antifa may be a small but unique contribution. The game’s dynamics will be familiar to anyone who’s played a 2D side-scroller like Super Mario: Your basic options are to move left or right and jump over or on various opponents and obstacles. The only addition is the aforementioned Molotov cocktails, which can be thrown at henchmen to reduce them to ashes.
The challenge is primarily in timing your moves so as to avoid the morass of bad guys and bullets. Despite playing literally dozens of times, I could not pass level one, which culminates with mini-boss Warden Klunke—a caricature of real-life David Clarke, “America’s Sheriff.”
Should you be able to pass level one of Antifa, you’ll have to wait for Wobbly Dev to release the subsequent stages. From the prisons of Dumpland, players will travel through the sewers, countryside, city, and into Dumpel Tower, with each environment being a distinct level, complete with its own enemies and bosses to defeat.
“The first level in the prison is just the beginning of the horrors,” says Wobbly Dev. “Subsequent levels will reveal the broader world against which the player fights.”
Antifa is certainly no revolution in indie games, but it succeeds on its own terms: bringing overt antifascism to gamers.
“I think the satirical aspects of Antifa act as a shield—or maybe a palatable introduction to the message,” they say. “By couching the horrors of authoritarianism in a cartoon aesthetic, I think I’ve got more leeway, thematically, and a better chance of maybe spreading the word: ‘Hey! Fascism is bad! Antifascism is good!’ This shouldn’t be that hard.”