Buckle up. Pound your bulletproof coffee, chug your Soylent, pop some coffee cubes, whatever you need to do to get prepared to play this new game: The Founder.
The Founder is somewhere between a video game and an art piece. It’s the work of Brooklyn-based machine-learning expert and artist Francis Tseng, and follows the career arc of the founder of a startup. In the game there is only one rule: keep growing. If you don’t grow fast enough, you get kicked out of the company.
We touched on the game in a previous interview about Tseng’s work this spring and now he’s started a Kickstarter to be able to finish. Kickstarter picked it immediately as a “Project We Love,” a non-paid endorsement the Kickstarter staff applies to projects they want to see do well.
The game is a management simulation where the player starts in his bedroom in 2001 and must decide what kind of company to build, such as biotech, finance or hardware. The player can attract workers with perks like ping-pong tables, beer kegs, and the like. Eventually, if you’re big enough, you need to take the next step and sponsor a relevant music festival, paper the subway with your ads, or co-brand your company with the social cause du jour.
“The main point the game is making with its satire is that you can’t keep growing forever,” explained Tseng in an interview. “At some point (if I get the game’s design right) the player will ask themselves, Is this actually a reasonable way we should want the world to work? Are there other kinds of ‘growth’ that we should be focusing on as a society? As you pursue the growth of your company in the game, you’ll start to see the effects your pursuit of growth has on the world — the destabilization of other countries, the exploitation of other populations, etc. — and I’m hoping that’s what will get people thinking.”
— StudioAmelia.eth (@ameliawb) July 27, 2016
In just over one day, the game has raised nearly $5,000 from over 100 backers. Tseng says the game will eventually move to a pay-what-you-want model when it’s completed.
“The goal is to get people playing it, sharing it, and most importantly talk about what it’s portraying, whether or not they agree with it, and how it affects how they think about the relationship between technology and society,” Tseng said.