I really rather adore this. A Bewitching Revolution is an elegantly simple first-person adventure, in which you play a socialist witch. Living in a slightly cyber-punk city, she spreads her communist ideals through spells and tarot reading. Which at the very least isn’t a description of any other game ever made.
It is, apparently, based on the work Caliban And The Witch by Italian radical feminist Marxist Silvia Federici. (Which is a fact I only learned after playing, because I read the article RPS inevitably beat me to writing six months ago.) Developer Colestia interprets this as a literal witch’s revolutionising a city, turning its peoples against the state, with both non-violent and violent rebellion.
This plays out in this free (or pay as much as you can) game by walking around a small, multi-tiered city area, subverting through education. Along the way there’s some illegal tree planting (something we can all do literally today), destruction of advertising hoardings, and breaking and entering to rehouse the homeless.
The core of the game is finding people or groups who want their fortunes told. Through a pseudo-tarot reading, the Witch communicates overviews of Federici’s teachings, which then inspires those individuals to rebel against the current system. A restaurant becomes an outlet for free food, an employment office becomes an education centre. It’s cooommmMMMMMuuuunniissmmm!
What I personally liked most about this was the sense of reawakening parts of my brain left dozing since my 20s, when I would read Adbusters and graffiti street advertising hoardings. When I studied Paulo Freire at university, and could quote from Pedagogy Of The Oppressed. Because, yeah, capitalism is monstrous and if people could be educated to rise up and overthrow their oppressors, a socialist future would be far, far better for the masses. Meanwhile my mortgage.
Having never heard of Federici before, and being broadly ignorant on the entire topic, I was also immediately enamoured by the moments briefly talking about how capitalism doesn’t recognise childbirth as work. Let me reproduce them in full:
“Capitalism does not value labour which keeps people living and ready for work (cooking, cleaning, caring, childbirth).
But without this reproductive labour, capitalism would have no workers.
By collectively organising reproductive labour, we can refuse to work for the maintenance of capitalism.
We can build a world where there is more to life than making more workers.”
It also covers the idea of a future where “the absence of work brings us leisure, instead of poverty.” And perhaps most controversially, the notion that all prisoners are political prisoners. (Reminder: you are not required to agree with all new ideas in order to listen to all new ideas.)
This all works rather well as a game. That your actions bring about consequences is perhaps one of the defining aspects of “game” over other media, so this vignette is able to portray an idealistic vision of how education can bring about revolution. As Freire argued, true oppression means a population is unaware it is oppressed. Only through education can that change. Which of course raises the spectre of how one can educate from within without inadvertently becoming the new source of oppression. Here this is portrayed as the Witch arriving in town, doling out her radical ideas, and then leaving once the population is overthrowing their own oppressors.
It leaves it at that. Which I think works splendidly at communicating its own ideas, irrelevantly of which I agree with or argue against. And you know what’s absolutely not interesting when it comes to reimagining the potential of education? The person who says, “Oh yes but it can’t work because…” This game is a polemic, not a debate.
I’m disappointed that it uses tarot. Tarot is a tool used by con artists to trick the vulnerable and the desperate, the dreariest combination of astrology-like gibberish and cold reading bullshit. Tarot strikes me as a very peculiar choice, a self-parodying form of capitalism where the worker is required to pay for lies and deceit. In the end though, it’s really just another means for the game to deliver some political ideas, much as talking to any cat in the city delivers the same!
And that’s what this is! A little polemic with really pretty blocky graphics, exciting bits where the police get cross, and very well-educated cats.