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    Cheesus's Prison Architect (PC)

    [March 3, 2016 02:44:13 PM]
    3rd Entry:

    For this entry, I will talk about chapter 3 and the sandbox mode in the game.

    Chapter three starts with a riot. The player is transferred into a new prison and things are clearly a mess. There are 90-something prisoners rioting and a load of injured guards. It's important to immediately start hiring doctors or getting paramedics to treat the wounded. Part of the compound is ablaze (again!). After treating some of the wounded, I sent riot police into the various parts of the compound under the control of the prisoners, accompanied by paramedics. Interestingly, the prisoners would target the police pretty much exclusively, leaving the paramedics to heal my troops. Simultaneously, I had to deal with the fire in the other wing of the prison. It was a total mess.

    Soon, though, the reality of the motivations for the riot was brought to light: corruption. It turns out that the prison administration was destroying documents that would have secured the release of prisoners, keeping them in the prison and ensuring constant money flow for the prison. The prisoners had rioted and taken the administration as hostages, warning that if their headquarters were attacked that they would kill everyone there. I don't think that there was actually any way to stop them from doing this.

    Given the situation, I definitely felt some empathy for the plight of the prisoners, knowing that they were being cheated by the system. They didn't have a lot of recourse, with their connection to justice outside of the prison cut off by the administration. Nevertheless, I had to squelch the riot, meaning that a great many prisoners died in the process. The riot police definitely kicked some ass in the process of retaking the compound, and a great many prisoners died -- along with a few of the police. I hadn't necessarily anticipated how well-armed the rioters would be.

    To be honest, I finished this mission as quickly as possible. The alternative part of the mission involves rebuilding the prison after the riot, which seemed like a nightmare ... and somewhat unrealistic. In reality, I assume that most of the prisoners would have been transferred to another facility while repairs were underway, but that wasn't an option in the game -- something I found unrealistic and annoying.

    As I said in the beginning of this response, I also tried the sandbox mode. Unlike the campaign mode, the sandbox mode is definitely more about the battle against finite resources. At the beginning of the game, there are so many things that you need to construct with limited tools. The sandbox mode was instead about optimizing the order of construction. First priorities were housing, food, power, water, and administrative offices. The player, though, has to be careful not to build any one thing too big too quickly. Otherwise, it's very easy to run out of resources.

    But after building a few of the necessities, it's easy to lose your control of the facility without knowing why ... the psychologist for this reason is incredibly important, someone I neglected to hire early on, which caused problems (a small riot). Over time, certain things become more and more important. For instance, starvation and overcrowding are things to be avoided obviously, but the prisoners needs pretty quickly turn to things like entertainment and family visitation (the latter being something I forgot to anticipate originally). Later, though, things like literacy and work become important.

    It's also very difficult to build a prison efficiently from the outset. There may be a way to best optimize the layout of the compounded, but it's hard to do that while also rushing to deal with each new crisis that comes up.

    Anyway, I had fun with this game, and I thought it overall did a good job reflecting some of the problems of the prison system as a whole.
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    [March 3, 2016 12:46:04 AM]
    2nd entry:

    This time I played through chapter two. The player is transferred to oversee a new prison, and the introduction to this one is pretty intense: the prison's dining area is totally ablaze. The player must first deploy emergency fire crews to subdue the blaze. After that, a character -- who turns out to be a mob boss -- is discovered grievously wounded in the wreckage. He is taken to the medical wing and his story is revealed. Two other characters (his son and step-son, if I recall correctly) come to see him, and the mob boss says that he suspects that one of the two is responsible.

    The player then goes through the process of clearing the wreckage and rebuilding the two destroyed facilities. After that, the player is then told that numerous narcotics have been discovered in the storage area. The game then reveals the story of Anthony, the mob boss's son. Turns out that he was the one who was sleeping with the wife of the guy executed in chapter one. This was an interesting feature. It connected the experience of these two seemingly disparate facilities; in fact, the death of the son sets up the conflict between the two rivals responsible for the destruction of the cafeteria and kitchen. Without the good-looking heir to the family business around, these two goons are the potential next-in-lines.

    The rest of the story plays out as the two fight for supremacy. One attempts to ambush the other in showers, attacking him with a knife. The potential victim, however, anticipates the move and hires an assassin to strangle his enemy with some piano wire. The assassin succeeds, but in the process both the assassin and his target die, and the other potential heir is seriously wounded by a slash across the chest.

    This part of the story really highlighted how dangerous the prison system is. Many people in the facility are there for violent crimes. At the same time, there are all sorts of people there for non-violent crimes too. In the game, you can house all sorts of prisoners at a single facility, ranging from minimum-security to super-max security, which in reality is sort of ridiculous -- but at the very least, this highlights something interesting. In reality, violent and non-violent offenders may be housed in the same facility, and for non-violent offenders, this seems like a bit of unjust punishment.

    There are two prevailing theories about what prison time means: it can either be punitive (punishing someone for breaking the law) or palliative (helping someone become a better person who will not break the law again). Most definitely the US has a punitive system. Over the years, prison sentences for all sorts of offenses have been increased -- with the intent to dissuade people from committing crimes in the first place -- resulting in a large prison population (around 3% of national population). Violent and non-violent offenders are housed together with little to do. Many prisons don't provide funding for educational programs, with the emphasis being on the bottom-line. It's easier and less expensive to have a single facility, and many prisons are run for profit. Those corporations don't care whether people are rehabilitated ... in fact, the more likely they see recidivism, the more likely they are to stay in business.
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    [March 1, 2016 09:43:42 PM]
    First entry:

    To start off, I played this game a little bit differently than I did "This War of Mine". I researched the former a little bit before getting started. This time, I just jumped right into it.

    The game throws the player into a campaign mode, in which he/she (he) takes over administration of a prison that is already up and running. The game introduces the player to some of the basic mechanics through a tutorial. In general the game follows the patterns/expectations of a resource management game, with the primary resource being money. Money is used to construct buildings (cells, cafeterias, guard towers, walls, etc) that allow for the efficient management of both prisoners and personnel. Now, to be fair, in the campaign mode, money seems to be fairly trivial. The player starts with an enormous stash in chapter one. I think that the campaign probably has a different focus than the resource management aspect.

    The game's art is fairly generic and lighthearted. The characters (inmates and staff) look akin to Lego characters, bobbing up and down as they walk around the prison. They don't have much detail as everything is portrayed from an overhead-45-degree perspective, mostly zoomed out to keep an eye on everything.

    Pretty quickly, though, shit got real. The first "mission" for the player is to construct an execution chamber for an inmate convicted of a double homie. Yikes. Through a series of polaroids the player is given the story of the murderer: correctly suspecting his wife of infidelity, the man returned home to find the woman and her lover. And he brought his loaded gun! He blasts the two of them in their faces before fleeing the whole situation (this scene, and the others in the story, are depicted simultaneously through polaroids and scripted actions on the part of the little Lego NPCs -- with almost comedic gore in my mind). He goes and confesses his crimes to his priest, who advises the man that he must turn himself in; although the law may not forgive his actions, God would, so long as he came clean. As the group travels to the execution chamber, the security chief opines that there would be no forgiveness for his crime, that the man knowingly and intentionally went there to kill the two.

    Possibly the game here is trying to make some moral claim about the entire judicial system, the punitive measures inherent to incarceration. The game starts with the most extreme instance of that system, in which the state takes the life of one of its citizens. Interestingly, this didn't really feel like a player-driven decision ... the entire experience of building the execution chamber and killing this guy was directed by the tutorial. This may have reflected the detachment of the system as a whole. But ... I don't know. I'm not convinced that was exactly the message. The characters involved in the actual exection -- the priest, the chief, the murderer -- all express heartfelt sentiments ... but as tiny, goofy Lego people. I felt it detracted from the overall message and made the experience feel more flippant.

    Next time ... chapter two?!
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    Status

    Cheesus's Prison Architect (PC)

    Current Status: Playing

    GameLog started on: Tuesday 1 March, 2016

    Opinion
    Cheesus's opinion and rating for this game

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