Exploring late-stage capitalism in The Outer Worlds

Capitalist, or anti-capitalist?

We're forgoing the typical questions of morality and "good versus evil" in our action role-playing video games and giving you a shot of economic injustice with a shooter of class consciousness.

Welcome to The Outer Worlds, a newly released space Western released for console and PC last week. (Fans of Firefly will appreciate.)

Here's the gist: You wake up aboard a space-faring vessel loaded with human popsicles, completely dethawed. You were supposed to arrive on a colony in a distant solar system, but you're 70 years too late. That sucks for you, but the real problem is that the colony is run amok with greed. The rule of law is almost entirely determined by the colony's corporate overlords, simply dubbed "the Board." Spoken words come equipped with mandated slogans. Employment is "guaranteed." Cutting costs and maximizing profits are all that matter in the future.

This is Jeff Bezos in space.

Are you going to stop him? Or do you climb the corporate ladder for these sweet BezosBucks™?

This all takes place in a futuristic frontier world that has the same visual style of railroad towns of the early 20th century. Think Fallout: New Vegas (same developer!) but in a vibrantly colored alien environment filled with strange creatures and desperate people.

Like most RPGs, you can still choose between being a good Samaritan or a wiseass looking out for themself. But The Outer Worlds goes a layer deeper, asking you questions about equality and social justice that are all too familiar in our current reality.

The community of Edgewater is in shambles. People are sick, dying and overworked. The town, known as an "employment community," is completely consumed by a phony veneer of corporate worker-bee culture. Given the chance to fight the powers that be, do you destroy Edgewater's power source? What about the hard-working people of Edgewater who rely on that power? Who have you helped? Was it worth it?

Without being overtly political or incendiary, The Outer Worlds makes for a thought-provoking "revolution sim." Budding Marxists and capitalists might think they know the answers to the world's problems, but they'll find this game challenges those ideas with layers of nuance.

It's fun because it's an open-world space exploration game with goofy laser guns and wacky characters. However, it's interesting because it shows us that sometimes we aren't as smart as we think we are. ♦

Preservación: Mary Farrell & Reinaldo Gil Zambrano @ Saranac Art Projects

Fri., Nov. 22, 5-8 p.m.
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About The Author

Quinn Welsch

Quinn Welsch is the copy editor of the Inlander.