You have recently been named the Manager for EyeLife’s new Flat Eye station in Iceland! This exciting opportunity comes with tons of company perks, including a fancy new office set up to remotely manage your station and employees, access to cutting edge EyeLife technology, and…direct oversight from EyeLife’s mysterious artificial intelligence? In Flat Eye, a management simulator developed by French studio Monkey Moon and published by Raw Fury, you manage your gas station, build modules for customers to interact with, and connect it all through a grid of geothermal power, bio material, information, and DNA, as you discover the complicated (and often sinister) ways that technology affects our day-to-day lives.
Set in 2022 Iceland, Flat Eye examines our technology-infused lives. While the technology available to you and your customers feels far-fetched (a surgery center in a gas station?), the pervasiveness of this technology is not. While our real-life coffee machines do not add needed vitamins and minerals to our morning cups of joe based on a biometric scan, we do wear watches that monitor our heart rate; we might not have microworking setups to earn store credits, but many people scrape by in a gig economy; we might not have an AI tracking our every move to determine exactly what item to install in our favorite store, but we do have targeted ads monitoring every word we type on our phones. The in-game representation of tech clearly exemplifies the often insidious way that technology–and therefore capitalism–invades our lives with its increasingly inescapable tentacles disguised as innovation. While we are jumping for the next cutting-edge Silicon Valley device, the capitalists are trying to figure out how to control every aspect of our lives with money, consumerism, and data–no differently than the way the EyeLife AI is learning everything it can about the Flat Eye customers.
What’s so ingenious about Flat Eye is the infusion of this dystopian story within the context of a management simulator. You don’t just progress through the storyline but manage the gas station in which it takes place. This means managing the employees, building new modules (coffee, food, bathrooms, even medical facilities), interacting with important customers, and ensuring you turn a profit. In addition to the main missions assigned to you by the omnipresent EyeLIfe AI, you have daily management missions (keep modules in good repair, limit the number of customers leaving angrily, meet a certain profit, etc.) drawn from a deck of tarot cards. The randomness of the missions help keep each day interesting and contribute to your progression in the story. The management side of the game is engaging without being too difficult, allowing you to engage in the story of insidious technology without being overwhelmed by management complexities.
As you can imagine, a game with this type of storyline will deal with several difficult topics. Regular references to death, animal cruelty, medical problems, mental health, and more are all common occurrences in the story of this game. Monkey Moon has therefore implemented a content warning system, which is more comprehensive and thoughtful than anything similar I’ve seen in other games. The game prompts you at the beginning to identify any topics you want to be warned about, and then you can choose to engage with that content or not when it comes up in the story. You can change this list at any time, allowing you to revise your choices without having to start a new game. I turned on all content warnings for my playthrough to see how it affected the story, and every conversation had at least one topic that was covered by the content warnings in some way. It is clear that the designers took the time to be thoughtful about their audience and ensure they could tell the story they wanted while allowing the player to engage in this story in a way in which they are comfortable.
Flat Eye is a deep and dynamic examination of our modern lives within the context of management simulation. Framing the invasion of technology and the breakdown of privacy in our lives with a simulation of the capitalist goals of a mega-corporation is a critical and much-needed portrayal of our current society. The engaging story will keep you playing to see how far the artificial intelligence will go and how it will affect the customers that you engage with in your store. Technology is inseparable from almost every aspect of our lives now, and Flat Eye shows you just how much of a mistake that probably was.