Do you like torturing children by putting them to work for long hours in horrible conditions? Of course you don't (right?), but chances are if you dig into Littleloud's newest game, Sweatshop, your gaming impulse will kick in and you'll want to win, win and win again, all while your guilt-meter goes flying up. It's a study in how much you can handle and how empathetic you really are -- and it's a pretty good tower defense game.
The premise of Sweatshop, in case you can't glean it from the title, is that you're a sweatshop manager who needs to get his workers to deliver products in a timely and efficient (read: cheap) manner. You'll do this by placing different worker-types across an assembly line and, as the products come out of one end, they'll put them together before they get to the other end. Essentially, you need to place the correct workers in the right spot to maximize efficiency.
It wouldn't be so bad if that was it, but it's not. In between each level, you'll get a little education about various working conditions in different parts of the world; then, by the fourth level, things start to get a little emotionally grueling.
On top of just getting workers in the right spots, you'll also have to make the choice of whether to care for them or simply fire them and hire new ones. The caring comes in the form of upgrades, providing water and other amenities, but it's almost always cheaper to simply fire and replace them with new people. It's here the cutesy visuals really shine -- the giant eyes can really push out tears in a meaningful way and, unless you're utterly ruthless, you'll think twice before firing someone.
But the motivation of someone who plays videogames is not to just win -- it's to win by more than someone else. It's a constant battle between your own empathy and the desire to succeed that makes Sweatshop so interesting. Yes, these are just digital game people, but how would you act in the real world? What would you do if you were the manager? Would you have the balls to put your own neck on the cutting line in order to make your workers' conditions better, or would you just tell them to shut up?
Find out for yourself by playing Sweatshop. We guarantee it won't be as easy as it sounds.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.