Image: Wikimedia/Thierry Ehrmann
When you have a bit of money, your whole calculus for approaching life’s daily decisions shifts compared to when you didn’t; it’s a change that comes with a mental adjustment, too, as you feel a bit more secure than before. But there’s a point at which this transformation spins off its axis into something grotesque and unfathomable. It’s here that we might say a person has “too much” money.You Are Jeff Bezos, a new choose-your-own adventure Twine game by Kris Ligman, explores exactly this. In the game, the player transforms into the uber-wealthy Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and your task is to spend every penny of the roughly $150 billion USD that Bezos is reportedly worth.
The player’s in-game transformation into one of the richest guys in recent history is a horror pulled from Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, in which the protagonist awakens from bad dreams to find out he’s turned into an insect. You still wake up as a “monstrous vermin” in the game, but it’s Jeff Bezos.
The game is basically a teachable moment about how much wealth billionaires have and how it could be used to better society rather than line their pockets. For example, the player can end homelessness in the US, hire 100,000 new teachers for four years each, and fix the Flint water crisis with billions left to go. It’s a bit of wish-fulfillment as well, because for all of his billions, Bezos is infamously charity-averse."If you play the game and get a quick laugh out of it, that's all I could ask for," Ligman wrote me in an email. "If you spend some more time with it—there are multiple endings and a few 'hidden' options which only pop up under certain conditions—I'm hoping you'll start to see just how out of proportion a billionaire's wealth really is."
You Are Jeff Bezos has an absurdist bent to it, as the player is eventually arrested along with some baristas and you’re faced with a choice: Do you spend the rest of your money to bail yourself out, or do you use your phone call to go on one last civic-minded splurge? If you spend it on yourself, you are stuck in Bezos’s body. The horror.
When I asked Ligman what they would do with all of Bezos' money, they noted that trying to change the world with money opens up a moral can of worms; better to do away with the system entirely. "There's no real answer I could give here besides 'Use money to make the concept of money obsolete,'" Ligman wrote.
You can’t fix everything the game throws at you with Jeff Bezos’ money alone. But just like in real life there are more billionaires out there, just waiting for their assets to be, uhm, better spent by someone else. In the game’s “true” ending—i.e., you spent your bail money on a noble cause—you wake up after spending every red cent of Bezos’s money as… Elon Musk.Get six of our favorite Motherboard stories every day by signing up for our newsletter.Update: This article was updated with comment from Kris Ligman.
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