The sixth episode of a short series on games I discovered at EGX Rezzed 2016.
Rezzed was truly the place to experience Aubrey Hesselgren’s The World Is Flat. In time, it’ll be available on tablets and PC but at Rezzed you could play it on the controller it was born for, the gym ball.
The World Is Flat is a game about geography. It asks little of you, merely to find countries on a world map. If you’re British you won’t get confused hunting down some neighbouring European countries, while I’m sure if you’re Japanese you probably got China and Korea all worked out. If you’re American, well, how charming for you.
Now this isn’t some cheesy educational game. You’re not going to get boilerplate text like WELL DONE [JIMMY] YOU FOUND [IRAN]. YOU WON  POINTS AND EARNED  GOLDEN GEMS, TRY HARDER YOU NEED  MORE GEMS FOR LEVEL . DID YOU KNOW [JIMMY] THAT IRAN’S PROGRESSIVE AND DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED PRIME MINISTER MOHAMMAD MOSADDEGH WAS OVERTHROWN BY THE BRITISH AND AMERICAN INTELLIGENCE SERVICES IN 1953? THIS LED DIRECTLY TO THE 1979 ISLAMIC REVOLUTION AND INCULCATED AN INTENSE DISTRUST OF WESTERN POWERS. [JIMMY], THIS IS WHAT WE CALL BLOWBACK.
In such a game, normally the world is a stationary thing, something to be explored with a pointer or an avatar. But this time around, you are round: you’re actually in control of the world. Look, think of it this way. If the game asks you to find [GREAT BRITAIN] then imagine [GREAT BRITAIN] is your ass and the game is asking you to show off your ass.
If you’re pretty good at finding the countries regardless, then The World Is Flat has more cards to play. How about finding cities? Can you find a country just from its flag? Time’s running out [JIMMY] spin faster!
Anyway, back to Rezzed. The gym ball controller, that ran on a couple of mice strapped to a deathtrap with elastic bands, was the perfect match for the game. Any worries that you were going to look silly playing a game with an oversized trackball immediately disappeared as soon as the game told you to locate [UNITED STATES] and [CHINA]. You became the ball. You became the world. I imagined it as the perfect party game, with friends screaming at you: NO NO YOU’RE GOING THE WRONG WAY STOP CHINA IS UP GO UP NO NO LEFT [JIMMY]
Even if you have a pretty good idea where a country is (but not [ANGOLA] don’t ask me about that), it was easy for the world to spin “upside down” on the ball. I don’t know about your brain, but my brain has indexed the world map to be a certain way, with America on the left, UK in the middle and Russia on the right. Once the world is rotated a little bit, my map is all fucked.
The game was beautifully polished. Please take a look at Hesselgren’s first-class marketing video below. Hopefully we’ll all get the chance to challenge our knowledge of world geography sometime in the near future. (Readers might also recall that Hesselgren featured in last year’s Rezzed reports – remember One One One Two Three?)
Interested in the other games I dabbled with? Check out the series index!