On Friday little known developer Supremacy released a mobile game named Mongrel Mob Defence and the media, predictably, went nuts. Sam Brooks says this kind of controversy not only allows these kinds of developers to thrive – it’s what they need to survive.
Thousands of games come out every year. As each year passes, more and more of these are mobile games. To get noticed among the deluge of games, many with the same core gameplay but different bright colours, you have to stand out. One way of standing out is by being genuinely good, getting your audience to love you, getting people to talk about your game. You know, the organic way to stand out.
The other way of standing out is to do something incredibly controversial that will get the name of your game and your company to a group of people who have never heard of your game, absolutely never heard of your company and probably have never played a mobile game other than Words With Friends.
Ladies and all otherly identified, this is how you get a game like Mongrel Mob Defence, and also how you get the absolute shitstorm that surrounded it this past weekend. (A shitstorm which I am delicately adding my take to.)
Mongrel Mob Defence is a simple, dumb and offensive game. In its original form, the player is a Mongrel Mob member. Your goal is to shoot Black Power members as they come onscreen. If you fail, you die. That’s it. Simple, not super innovative. Where it gets offensive is that the player character is a notorious member of the Mongrel Mob, Greco – or more accurately, a caricature of Greco. Greco was a real person who passed away six years ago.
Depicting a real-life figure, even one as understandably controversial as Greco, as a caricatured character whose only purpose in the game is to shoot Black Power members is offensive. That’s obvious. It’s in poor taste, it is incredibly unclassy and just a pretty shitty thing to do to a real person. This isn’t like Assassin’s Creed portraying Richard the Lionheart as a power-hungry Templar. This is a real person whose family is still alive, likely with real and present feelings that were not taken into consideration making this game.
After the completely reasonable outcry, the developers added this note to the game:
Just in case you thought that Supremacy were acting in good faith, this confirms that… nope. They just want to screw around with people for a bad taste laugh.
We should absolutely decry something offensive when it’s done. But the profile of this game has been exponentially increased by its coverage. Over the weekend, it hit number one on the Google App store. There is absolutely no way that it would’ve come anywhere near that achievement without the controversy it generated – the controversy it was designed to generate.
The developer Supremacy has other apps on the Google Play Store which are equally tasteless. They’re largely free sound apps: Ooga Booga Sound, Fart Sound, Donald Trump Sound, and so on. (There’s also a Blow Valve Sound, which I guess isn’t tasteless but potentially helpful should you ever require a Blow Valve Sound.)
There’s absolutely no way the Herald, RNZ or Newshub would’ve looked twice at this game if it had been popped into their inbox via a press release. Hell, there’s no way I would’ve looked at it twice, and I actually care about video games. But you call your game Mongrel Mob Defence, use a caricature of a real-life person in it, make them do caricatured and offensive things and suddenly you’ve got five hundred comments on Facebook, fifty shares, and a handful of death threats.
A weekend of controversy gave this game more success than many other games of this ilk will have in their entire life. I am now aware of an app developer named Supremacy, and before I stumbled across a news post on Facebook I sure as hell wasn’t. I don’t think I ever would have been. A developer like Supremacy doesn’t just thrive on controversy, it breathes on controversy.
Giving oxygen to this game is like listening to the floppy-haired teenager from next door talk about how anarchy is the only way forward; you legitimise him just by giving him your time and your oxygen. Mongrel Mob Defence and Supremacy have had enough oxygen. Let them suffocate on their own carbon dioxide now, thanks.
In a statement to Newshub, the developer called the game a ‘comical time-waster.’ Absolutely. And continuing to talk about this game is a slightly less comical time-waster. If you want to support some cool New Zealand developers who are making games that you should absolutely give oxygen to, check out Dinosaur Polo Club or PikPok Games.
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