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The Republia Times

Media Matters

The Republia Times simulates the pressures of the press.

By Todd VanDerWerff • April 27, 2012

The Republia Times can seem almost insultingly simple, but that’s a part of its charm. Within its “working on a Macintosh during computer lab in an underfunded public school in the early ’90s” aesthetic, the game attempts to say something surprisingly serious about the banality of most journalism and how the media is usually in the pocket of the ruling class—whatever that ruling class might be.

Players fill in as the editor-in-chief of a newspaper in what appears to be a despotic regime, where said newspaper is mostly meant to prop up the government as it wages a civil war against rebels aiming to overthrow it. The articles stream down the left side of the screen, and players are given three options for the size of articles to place, from large centerpieces to one-column sidebars. The player’s government handlers are keeping the player’s family as collateral, just in case, so the player is always encouraged to place articles that won’t threaten the government’s standing with the people. This means a steady diet of entertainment, sports, and weather news, along with a carefully chosen tidbit of actual news that reflects well on the rulers. Everything goes to press at 6 p.m., so the editor can’t waste too much time waiting for just the right collection of stories. Gradually, someone else breaks into the newswire, and it becomes clear that all is not as it seems.

The game is rudimentary and ridiculously simple—it will be very hard to “lose” this game, even though the government sets certain easy-to-reach goals for the harried editor. The newspaper’s front page is only three squares wide by five squares tall, which leaves unsightly gaps, no matter the size of articles chosen, and there aren’t a lot of customization options. Yet there’s something mesmerizing about the game all the same. The game has precisely one point to make—you’ve probably guessed it already—and it makes it as obviously as possible. But the point still stands, once it’s made, and even without it, there’s a weirdly addictive little simulator of one editor carefully crafting the tides of public opinion. Just playing the game makes it easier to imagine some frazzled person rushing from the ticker to the mock-up boards to the presses, trying to get everything in under the wire. 

The Republia Times aims, at first, to echo the dying days of the old Soviet bloc, but what it really succeeds in evoking is another relic from the ’80s: the daily newspaper, held together with stories that don’t even pretend to the level of newsworthiness but are there to sell papers anyway. And on that level, the game is almost a perverse love letter.

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570 Responses to “Media Matters”

  1. Spacemonkey_Mafia says:

    “Extra Extra! Todd Smells”

    Is your source on this reliable?

  2. HobbesMkii says:

    I didn’t actually lose the game, just got bored and stopped: *SPOILERS, IF BROWSER GAMES HAVE SPOILERS* Is there something that happens if you don’t continually overthrow the government?

    • professorcharisma says:

      The leader grew tired of me and print media, surely concerned with my growing influence.  I was let go and my family was killed.

      • HobbesMkii says:

        Bummer that you got fired. Not the family thing. I think I had like three or four by the time I got finished with it.

  3. Effigy_Power says:

    So… is it MadTV (the game, not the show) for newspapers, but just like every attempt, weaker than MadTV?

  4. 3FistedHumdinger says:

    Is it me, or is there no way to actually win?

  5. Merve says:

    I see the headline “Butt Within Spec!” and I can’t stop laughing.

  6. trilobiter says:

    Well, killed my family.  I am a terrible editor.

  7. Newbs says:

    Hey all right! My family has been “eliminated”. Does that mean I won?