Aug 31, 2021 - Technology

Finally, a video game about the Ever Given

A screenshot of a video game graphic showing a cargo ship named "Whatever" navigating a narrow passage of water with land on both sides.

Screenshot: Napas Torteeka

A newly revealed PC game called “Whatever” will give players a rough approximation of what it’s like to steer a container ship through a tight canal, a half year after its inspiration, the Ever Given, got unstuck from the Suez.

Why it matters: For all the thousands of video games that are made each year, it’s rare that one is based, however loosely, on the news.

  • Any good game like that takes time, because games, like large container ships, are difficult to steer to completion.
  • For context: a blockbuster 2011 PlayStation game inspired by 2005’s Hurricane Katrina felt unusually timely.
  • And when a major game released this April referred to a “redneck mob storming D.C.,” its creators said that could only be a coincidence, given production timelines.

The details: “Whatever” is a small indie game. It’s coming from 36-year-old Bangkok-based amateur game developer Napas “Jet” Torteeka, who told Axios over Discord that he last made a game 15 years ago.

  • In March, he was tinkering with some game development tools while looking for an idea, when he opened up Facebook and saw the news about the Ever Given.
  • “I just wondered: How could that be possible!?” he said. “What were the captain and the crew doing to get it stuck that way?”
  • He got to work making a prototype of a game in which you steer a ship through narrow, winding passages.

Gaming projects about the Ever Given have been infrequent so far.

  • In late March, a player modified “Microsoft Flight Simulator” so users could fly over the stuck ship.
  • In the spring, the developer of a game called “Panama Canal Simulator” swiftly released a variation called “Suez Canal Simulator” and in July added the Ever Given to it for players to pilot.

The big picture: The slowness of game development is one obstacle limiting the creation of games tied to the news. The will to “go there,” especially with politically fraught topics, is a factor too.

  • For decades, the industry turned out big-budget, flag-waving war games largely about World War II before finally — and only briefly —focusing any on the more fraught Vietnam War.
  • Even if developers are ready, platform holders can be restrictive, as one indie creator found in 2014 when Apple initially blocked his pro-Palestinian game.

What’s next: Torteeka is releasing an “early access” version of “Whatever” in late September.

  • He hopes players will find his game revelatory. It is cartoonish but designed to simulate the feeling of steering a heavy object while fighting inertia.
  • “When I first played my prototype,” he said, “I knew how amazing every cargo ship captain is.”
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