Orwell and the fourth wall

*** Warning; spoilers on Orwell game from 2016 **

In most video games (that I have encountered and played) the fourth wall is almost always intact and preserved to stay as such. The player of the game is separated from the real world and a new identity is creating for them within the game or they take on a character’s role within in the game and its world. However, in the game Orwell this is not the case.

First, let me give you a brief summary of the game:
As a result of the ‘Safety bill‘ made by the government of the Nation (lovely ambiguity, don’t you think?) a new security/surveillance system has been created called Orwell. You are employed as an investigator (from outside the Nation) for Orwell to research and collect data about potential criminals and/or terrorists (target person). This data is collected by going through various different online sources, like social media sites, bank accounts, personal websites, news papers etc. and then it is assembled in profiles, which an adviser will assist and decide the course of action.

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The game starts off with a surveillance recording of a plaza during a normal day and then suddenly a bomb goes off. Here, the player’s part starts off and they have to investigate a potential bomber, who was caught on camera just before the bomb went off. It does not take long before the player finds a connection between the target person and an activist group called Thought. Furthermore, is quickly discovered that this group have well-hidden secrets about a potential second bombing.

After investigating this group the player discoverers that its founder was also involved with the inception of Orwell. The discovery is made through a conference-call made between the remaining members of the group and the actual bomber is discovered. The founder proposed the use of a two-person-system to ensure the ethical usage of the system. However, a third person was added to this system: an evaluator. Following this discovery a member of the group speaks directly to the player, because they know that the investigator will be listening in on the call.

The group member suggests that the player should expose Orwell for what it is: a flawed system, which leave no room for privacy. The player is left with two main choices and courses of action. 1) They start to investigate themselves through the evaluator’s work and the government itself or 2)  they go after the bomber and do the job Orwell wants you do to.

Here, the interesting part is the way the game breaks the fourth wall. The player is brought into the game as a real person, based on their actions made in the game. Even though that ‘breaking the forth wall’ is meant in relation to a fictional character becoming aware of their fiction status, I would still to say that this situation would count as one too. Since the investigator is not a part of the Nation, the player is easier to transform to a fictional character or role within the game world. The data that can be collected on the player itself are defined by the player on what they had done throughout the game.

The player is put into the target persons shoes and left to wonder and faced with the ethical question their own privacy. By breaking the fourth wall the player is immersed more effectively in the game as they are asked to question their own actions. To move on with the game you have to chose to expose yourself or ignore these and keep doing the job of Orwell. There are different endings to the game and so I advise anyone to play through the game several times. If you use different mindsets when playing the game you can get some interesting pieces of data that can get you thinking.

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