Orwell: Keeping an Eye on You

Citizen science is the idea of having research conducted in organised form by non-professionals under the direction of scientific institutions. Some well-known examples of citizen science are found in astronomy and ornithology. In The Nation this philosophy has recently been extended into the realm of national security. Following the the Safety Bill that was initiated by The Party in 2012 the government of The Nation has received extended ability to observe the communication between its citizens in the name of national security. This has enabled the Orwell programme of surveillance, where Investigators have access to the communications of target persons and Advisors make recommendations for further actions. The similarities with citizen science is that the Investigators are just ordinary people from outside The Nation who look at the vast amounts of information and mark which data chunks that may be of interest. The Advisors, on the other hand, are professionals with experience and good contact with the legal authorities and they work with the provided data chunks. This system certainly ensures that not one single person gets too much power over the course of the investigations.

In Orwell: Keeping an Eye on You the player takes the role as a recently recruited Investigator. As a first case the player will have to look at a bomb that exploded at Freedom Plaza in central Bonton killing several citizens. A woman known to the police was seen at the scene and the player has to figure out whether she was involved in the terrorist attack.

The gameplay is straight-forward. It is just about using the Orwell interface to look at the data that are available and to decide what is relevant for the case at hand and what is not. It is fascinating to see how much of the interpretation of the available information depends on the context, meaning that the ordering of information has a big impact on the conclusions that are made. I liked the general idea of working with limited knowledge to understand a plot that is not straight-forward. The story itself makes sense, but it is only towards the end that I could see it so playing the game is like reading a good detective story with a possibility to make bad decisions which have effects on the outcome. Surprisingly for a detective story, Orwell: Keeping an Eye on You also had a good replayability value, at least for me. I really had to see if it was possible to choose the bits of information I transferred in such way to make the best possible outcome, for the people involved, and for the citizens of The Nation as whole…

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