A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
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.
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?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.