Orwell: Ignorance Is Strength

Game review by
David Wolinsky, Common Sense Media
Orwell: Ignorance Is Strength Game Poster Image
Confusing secret ops sim plays with online truth and lies.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

No positive messages with focus on fake news, snooping, lies.

Positive Role Models & Representations

You're teamed up with an in-house investigator who, though biased and highly judgmental, is trying to protect democracy/global politics, its citizens. 

Ease of Play

Essentially an investigation simulator, you build a web of information so daunting it can start to overwhelm and confuse you as to where to go next, even if you know what you're trying to prove, find clues on. 

Violence

Audio of violent crimes, terrorism.

Sex

Some passing dialogue, emails you can read about individuals who are lonely, single, wanting to have a girlfriend.

Language

Frequent use of "s--t." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Orwell: Ignorance Is Strength is an episodic downloadable simulator-adventure game for Windows and Mac computers. Over the course of three connecting stories, you play the role of an investigator working for a secret government agency intended to protect the current world order. There are no real positive messages in store here, and only a few barely passing positive role models in the form of activists, representatives, and other agents who believe in the righteousness of their cause -- which is colored by the extreme manipulative lengths to which they'll go to defend their point of view. Although focused primarily on political intrigue, media manipulation of the masses, and terrorist plots, the game is relatively light on violence: At most, you'll be exposed to audio of simulated acts of violent assassinations and can read about a bombing's effects. Similarly, there are veiled references to single characters wanting to have a girlfriend. There's frequent use of the word "s--t" in dialogue.

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What's it about?

In ORWELL: IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH, you step into the shoes of a government official in a top-secret department of the Orwell surveillance program. Given the power to both uncover and fabricate "the truth," how far will you go in the service of your country? Inspired by the rise of fake news, social media echo chambers, and the displacement of truth, this game asks you to decide for yourself how far you will go in the service of your country and whether the truth is sacred or ignorance is strength.

Is it any good?

This ambitious investigation game tasks you with uncovering the truth as it really is or as you'd prefer it to be, but its intrigue gets so overcomplicated that it loses some fun. It's almost difficult to judge Orwell: Ignorance Is Strength, because like its subject matter, it's a little complicated. In the good column? Chances are you haven't seen or played anything quite like this before. It scores points for addressing contemporary concerns and keeping you on your toes: You investigate truth by diving into a growing web of people's internet histories, phone records, social media accounts, and even personal computers that all change in real time as you gather what you're looking for and what you think you're looking for. Think of it as a turn-based world and internet strategy game, where your turns consist of banking flagged pieces of information with your partner. They can only form theories and plans of action based on what you show them, and in exchange they can share what they're thinking with more color and context for what you're logging. You'll catch people in lies and will have to decide whether it was an honest mistake or someone not realizing they'd be caught contradicting themselves. Not every lie or every piece of information you find is relevant or accurate: You have to pay attention to what you're reading and make active decisions based on what to do with what you're seeing. 

The downside? This game can quickly get daunting and confusing. Frequently you'll have no clue what to do next, even if your objectives (e.g., find out whether someone's alibi is truthful, or clarify what their relationship with another person was) are clear. Sometimes you're racing against the clock (before someone's inflammatory blog post will be published), but sometimes you just get stuck and will wonder what you missed in a data bank that sprawls over hundreds of pages and articles. The game's simplistic handling of truth and where it truly lies -- that is, between the lines and not awkwardly explained in a deleted document on someone's computer -- often complicates the act of investigating. Nevertheless, this is a game that's worth a shot if you're looking for something a little different and are comfortable with getting lost for long stretches.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why stories like Orwell: Ignorance Is Strength are so captivating for mainstream, broad audiences. What do you find appealing about chaos being caused and simultaneously contained by unseen forces aligned with governments? 

  • How do you notice people's appearance shapes your opinion of them while you're still getting to know them? 

  • What do you have the most/least patience with investigating in this game? Why? 

  • How do you verify that the information you're reading in the news is factual? Why have you been duped in the past? What patterns do you recognize in yourself in both of these instances? 

  • How do you protect your privacy online? What should you never reveal about yourself on the internet? 

Game details

  • Platforms: Mac, Windows
  • Price: $9.99
  • Pricing structure: Paid
  • Available online? Available online
  • Developer: Surprise Attack
  • Release date: February 22, 2018
  • Genre: Adventure
  • Topics: Adventures
  • ESRB rating: NR for No Descriptions

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love mystery

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