What If Gordon Freeman Was a Civil Engineer?
Many gamers will recall the pleasures of liberating City Seventeen from the rapacious Combine in Half Life 2. A new first-person video game called INFRA gives us something quite unique: a plot revolving entirely around fixing a broken city. Sitting in for Half Life protagonist Gordon Freeman is 'Mark,' "an engineer tasked with saving the infrastructure of a once-profitable, now badly degraded Baltic mining city."
In a break from hallowed gaming tradition, INFRA skips the zombies, custom weaponry, and waves of nameless, faceless bad guys. On the game's nonviolence John Metcalfe writes, "The action begins in, of all places, a boardroom discussion—a narrative decision the game seems to instantly regret, because you get a pop-up option to 'Skip meeting.'"
Bringing a decrepit city back to life sure can be fun, but there's a sobering lesson behind INFRA, especially in the wake of the Flint water crisis. "Oskari Samiola, who's 23 and lives in Finland, earlier told CityLab the inspiration for making this game was watching a 'documentary about the U.S.A.'s at-the-collapsing-point infrastructure' and 'generally after hearing news about spoiled tap water and seeing roads in poor condition.'"