The old adage is, never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel. These days, Big Business also is learning not to antagonize video game designers. As Mitsubishi, McDonald's (MCD ), and FedEx (FDX ) Kinko's found out, they can get nasty and mock your product by making a game of it. Increasingly, the spoofs are popping up on the Web.
Software engineer Shawn McGough says he created Melting Mitsubishi after the paint on his new Mitsubishi Lancer wore away just months after purchase. Players must zap raindrops and spinning Mitsubishi logos away from a yellow Lancer before its paint melts off. In an anti-McDonald's game created by Molleindustria, an Italian company specializing in games for activists, players switch back and forth between a McDonald's farm, feedlot, restaurant, and headquarters. Players can boost their score by fattening cows with hormones and firing inefficient workers, hitting on themes familiar to critics of Big Food. If profits dip, an evil-looking Ronald McDonald admonishes: "Shame on you, you bankrupted the company!"
In Disaffected! from Persuasive Games, players staff a Kinko's counter. Employees have one mode, indifferent, as they grunt, confuse orders, or refuse to work. The game ends when irate customers exit without paying. More than 50,000 people have downloaded Disaffected! since its debut in mid-January, says designer Ian Bogost. But it may have an unintended effect. "It made me appreciate what [Kinko's] employees must go through," noted one player on gaming blog Joystiq.com. Kinko's says it takes "strong exception" to the characterization. Mitsubishi declined to comment; McDonald's had no response.
By Elizabeth Woyke