Briefly Noted: Playing Paranoia


Video games increasingly prize polished presentation and ease of play, but 2011: Obama's Coup Fails, a Web-based war game housed at USofEarth.com, seems uninterested in either. Developed and maintained by a community of user-fans, the game reflects a crowded design ethos that is only a half-step above a typical MySpace page. And the unthrilling game play—combat consists of clicking static maps and typing numbers into browser fields—is explained via crudely recorded YouTube tutorials, all of which are punctuated with non sequiturs like "Mmm! That looks tasty!"

It's not clear whether any of it, tutorials or game, is intended to be taken seriously, although it is rooted in political attitudes that some people take very seriously indeed. The game's imagined future is one in which the most extreme anti-Obama paranoia has proven prophetic. Its major innovation is its use of real-world news clips blended into the story—a hint that, despite its studied unrealism, its creators may view it as more than a game. —Peter Suderman