Sometimes the best games played are also the most simple. That’s why The Oregon Trail continues to live on in some form nearly 50 years after it was first released. It also partly inspired this new simulator about life in Australia’s Cessnock, in the NSW Hunter Valley.
Cessnock.Life is a simple text-based game that randomly generates a name and some life stats — luck, happy, health, IQ and looks. All you do is hit the ‘Age’ button and it throws life events at you for each year you progress.
Mikey, a software engineer in Sydney, is behind the simple game and joked he saw a gap in the admittedly niche market.
“Cessnock doesn’t have too many competing life simulators. I saw it as a wide open opportunity to capture the market before a competitor could swoop in,” Mikey said to Gizmodo Australia over email.
Once you get to age 18, it stops and gives you a net-worth. It’s only a beta so Mikey said he intends to expand it beyond that age and include more story logs, questions to help and user accounts so you can save games and review past plays.
A choose-your-own-adventure for regional Australians.
A lot of text entries allude to some problems parts of regional Australia have built up a negative reputation for — racism, alcoholism, drug abuse, violence, among others.
In one run-through, my character’s preschool was cancelled because the owner was selling meth and later was put on Ritalin at age 11. It’s not all as depressing as that but it’s definitely the intention behind it.
Mikey, who lived in Cessnock until he was 19, said he’d shown friends from the area and none had been offended so far. He expects that positive feedback won’t last forever.
“I do expect some locals will find it offensive,” Mikey said.
“The content can be (and will continue to be) confronting. The simulation is based on the reality of growing up in a low socioeconomic area.
“At the same time, some of the most interesting and creative people you could imagine come from Cessnock and I intend to incorporate that into the app as well.”
Mikey explains the content is randomly generated depending on logs he’s pulled together for each age but he plans to make a smarter system so users can develop a chain of reactions in each run-through.
“I am working on a more advanced system that will use the previous content to build a consistent narrative. There will also be user questions along the way to shape the storyline,” Mikey said.
“The new system will be using a weighting algorithm — modelled on the types of algorithms used to recommend content on Facebook, Twitter etc..”
Once he’s done with Cessnock though, he has another town in his sights — Sydney’s Newtown.
“The next location will be Newtown, NSW — it’s easier to flesh out content for places I’ve lived and know well,” Mikey said.
“The content for Newtown will be quite different vs. Cessnock.”