The Canadian Government Made a Propaganda Video Game

Heritage Canada turns its history into a choose-your-own-adventure.

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Jul 8 2015, 7:17pm

What I thought was a peninsula was actually a bay, and now after days of travelling I, an explorer looking for the Northwest Passage, will have to turn my vessel back. It won't be the first time I hit a wall of ice in the historically-based animated choose-your-own adventure Journey Into the Arctic, created by The Department of Canadian Heritage.

I also foolishly pushed through the winter, and my boat and crew were ensnared by the ice flows. Thankfully, this history can be rewound with a click, allowing you to go back in time and make the right choices.

Journey Into the Arctic was created to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday, which is due in 2017. It is very nicely animated, and roughly tells the story of explorers who helped distinguish the country's boundaries in the Northwest.

It's a strange thing to focus on for Canada's 150th birthday, until you recall that Canada is in a flexing competition with Russia over ownership of the resourceful territory. The game, which itches a bit of propaganda, wants to remind you that we Canucks landed in the icy Arctic first, and all the oil that happens to be there is ours, all ours.

Canadians might remember a similarly oddly specific bit of historic celebration a few years back. Before almost every movie, you'd see a dramatic ad for the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, the Canadian versus US tussle that is best known for pacifying the border between the two countries and torching the White House. The commercials, however, make it look like the English and First Nations formed some kind of Avengers team to give the southern neighbours the boot, with Canadian war hero and ice cream parlour Laura Secord filling the role of Black Widow.

Both that ad and this video game feel like similar chest thumping. It's worth mentioning that both also gloss over treatment of First Nation communities. In Journey Into the Arctic, you stop by the Inuit, trade some supplies, feel great about the encounter, and even get a few dog sleds on loan to complete the rest of your journey because everyone just loves each other so damn much.

After beating Journey Into the Arctic, I am thanked for helping discover the Northwest Passage. "You have contributed to a great legacy of Arctic discovery and helped to define one of our most valuable treasures: The great Canadian North," I'm told. With a little luck, it will make players want to defend that treasure like loot in so many other games.