Image courtesy of TrampolineTales
In 2021, Luck be a Landlord designer Dan DiIorio had what every upstart game creator hopes for: a hit. People wanted to play—and pay for—his game. But as I previously reported, DiIorio was forced to delay a patch for his roguelike deckbuilder about earning "rent money to defeat capitalism" because he couldn’t get ADHD medication, and it’s “nearly impossible” for him to write code without it. Two years later, with Luck be a Landlord having left Early Access last week, DiIorio’s life has changed, and he no longer worries about rent.
What hasn’t changed, however, is getting regular access to his ADHD medication. “Getting health insurance is still a nightmare for someone who isn't employed by a major corporation,” said DiIorio, “and there have been numerous instances since we've last spoke where I was unable to get my medication when I needed it. Having a financially successful video game doesn't make insurance companies or pharmacies view me any differently.”In Luck be a Landlord, players spin a slot machine, earn money, and use that money to add new symbols to the slot machine. In the deckbuilder metaphor, these symbols function as your cards. The game tries to represent the chaos of trying to make money just to survive.DiIorio’s mental health, and how his brain deals with arranging and assigning tasks, is a daily management task. That task didn’t suddenly go away when Luck be a Landlord was making money. While a game having a moment in the sun isn’t guaranteed to last, DiIorio was, thankfully, given encouragement by his own community to take the time needed back then. "I myself, and countless others, have also struggled with access to mental healthcare under the U.S. Healthcare system,” wrote one player at the time. “You're not alone. This community appreciates everything you are doing, and we understand that taking care of yourself.”
Previously, DiIorio had been living off unemployment and by sifting through a rapidly depleting savings account. Now, while DiIorio said he and his partner are far from “set,” money is no longer an everyday stress, and he’s moved out of New York, a life change that pushed back development “but has done wonders for my ability to deal with my anxiety disorder.”
In 2021, DiIorio told me he was a “recently radicalized leftist,” and a motivation for making Luck be a Landlord was “wondering why we even have to pay rent in the first place.” DiIorio admitted the access to money is emotionally complicated, but he’s trying to find good uses.“My politics remain unchanged,” he said. “I'm still a communist and I still feel horrible guilt over the countless humans dying under capitalism. I gain some solace knowing that I'm able to help many of my close friends and family through mutual aid now that I can afford to.”DiIorio declined specifics, but said he has a “few friends and family members who don't have a reliable source of income, so I help pay their living expenses whenever they can't.”Over these past two years, DiIorio’s satirical game about money caught the eye of someone connected to a billionaire: Donna Zuckerberg, sister to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
It’s all because one major addition DiIorio made to Luck be a Landlord was the addition of a guillotine item that can destroy billionaire items in the game. (The guillotine is commonly used online when joking about how to deal with capitalism’s exploits.) The reason that’s important is because the design of the “billionaire” in the game looks like Mark Zuckerberg. "Love your game, @TrampolineTales! Although I can't help feeling the 'billionaire' looks a little familiar…" Donna Zuckerberg tweeted.DiIorio declined to confirm it's the Facebook CEO, but pointed towards a quote tweet of Donna Zuckerberg, where he noted that “I don't think it's my fault that all billionaires look like soulless husks.”Follow Patrick on Twitter. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org, and available privately on Signal (224-707-1561).