Imagine a future where Premier Stalintron's robot army has had its horns locked with your nation, the freedom-loving North Atlantic Protestant Alliance, for years, and that you had arguably one of the most important tasks in the nation: managing the national budget, deciding if your co-patriots deserve a new fleet of jets, weapons, and tanks to keep the cyborg soviets at bay, or a new video rental store so they can take Ladyhawke home for the weekend.
That's just the position that new game called MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX put you in.
Created by Michael Davis, who also brought us ICBM, the Desert Bus of war games, MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX reinterprets the titular concept, the machine that perpetuates war for national profit, into a two-button, one-bit test of your idiot patience.
You sit at a terminal with your face glued to the screens. If you press right, resources go to your defences, developing tech, and weapons. If you press left, resources go to your people, developing stickers, strip-malls, and new "very special episodes" of ALF about drugs to keep them busy all day. When you fund project for the people, Stalintron's forces get closer to the border. If you fund the war machine, your populace starts itching for a revolution. Every few turns a wild card will appear, forces beyond your power that can temper either anxiety, such as your rival's failures, a deal with Lord Triton god of the ocean, or the sexiest goddamn Bryan Adams album to date.
"The gameplay is designed in such a way that you can never win," said Davis in an email to Motherboard. "You can just prolong how long it takes to lose, which is my ham-fisted pinko statement on the actual Military-Industrial Complex."
Sometimes you'll feel the tinge of strategy, sweating over each choice and making calculated decisions. Most of the time you'll just bash on either button without even looking at the screen and eventually let either the revolt or the occupation begin, just to spruce things up. I lasted about 90 turns before finally giving up in the same despair I feel towards the inevitable demise of our real world. Other players, Davis said, have more faith in the system. Some have already played MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX for thousands of turns, which Davis didn't even know was possible.
"For that dude who made it past turn 3000," said Davis, "just have to assume that in the universe of his specific game, it just all worked out I guess."