Given its highly interactive nature, the project/game “Facechange” is an especially challenging project to represent in other accessible formats. Here, we provide a brief verbal summary of the game. In doing so, we acknowledge that such a summary cannot sufficiently convey the experience of engaging with “Facechange” directly.
“Facechange” Game Description
The home page of the game, formatted much like a Facebook timeline, gives players access to three main levels. The levels, each containing two rounds of play, are based on cause recently popular on social media: Occupy Wall Street, SOPA and PIPA protests, and Kony 2012. The arcade music and settings of each level differ according to the cause.
The audience plays the game through its protagonist/avatar, a gray-haired character who wears a blue shirt boasting a large “F” (for Facebook). Players navigate by using keyboard controls: “w” moves the avatar up, “a” moves it to the left, “d” moves it to the right,” and “s” moves it down.
In each round, players must use the keyboard controls to obtain “money” and “Likes,” presented respectively as dollar bill and thumbs-up icons on the screen. When the avatar makes contact with a “money” or “Like” icon, a “ding” noise and an increase in the score (tallied at the top right hand corner) acknowledge the achievement. After following a trail of “Likes,” the avatar must reach the endpoint of the level to move onto the next.
Level 1: Occupy Wall Street
In an urban setting of sidewalks and tall buildings, you as the player navigate obstacles of fire hydrants, flashing street lights, traffic cones, and police officers. In the background plays arcade music based on Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know” (2011).
Level 2: SOPA and PIPA
In an environment resembling a Wikipedia page with several blacked-out phrases, which function as obstacles for you as the player. In the background plays arcade music based on Muse’s “Map of the Problematique” (2007).
Level 3: Kony 2012
The game’s last level is set in a devastated (presumably) Ugandan village, where the player must find her way around burning huts and characters designed to look like generic African warlords. Generic arcade music plays in the background.
Despite the real-world differences among these social causes, each round is ultimately quite similar in that players must consistently use the same keyboard controls to obtain “money” and “Likes” indiscriminately. In other words, one can easily play the game without understanding or differentiating among the contexts.
Following completion of all levels, “Facechange” concludes one of two ways. Here we quote from the student authors’ explanation of the game’s conclusion (please see “Student Reflection” for further discussion):
Conclusion Scenario One (“You Lose”):
“The donated time and money will count significantly more than the likes, so if the player put in minimal effort and only collected ‘likes,’ his score will be very low and he will ‘lose’ the game. In this instance, an extremely negative image will appear of a self-destructing Earth with the accompanying text: ‘Facebook “likes” won’t save the world.’”
Conclusion Scenario Two (ostensible win):
“If a player’s score is high enough (over 2000 points), an image appears congratulating the player on his win in the game, though the image is very plain and only has white and navy text on a blue background (tying the message back to Facebook). This plain win-state image is intended to express our point that winning a game on the Internet, even if it is about slacktivism, is still not creating real change in the world (unless it is Free Rice). To further emphasize this point we included a game timer that shows the players how much time they wasted playing the game. Then to suggest ways to become a better slacktivist, we included a few examples of ways to make real world change in the amount of time spent playing the game.”