Trash the Planet

“Trash the Planet” by This Game Is Haunted (Nick Cummings, Ben Morgan, Sarah Morgan, Bryan Brunt & Chris Balcom).

“[A resource management] game that subverts clicker mechanics to serve its narrative rather than manipulate the player. You play as a group of raccoons who start out collecting trash and end up ruling the planet. Help raccoon society evolve at an alarming rate, marvel as the numbers get bigger, and learn how to manipulate the stock market with absolutely no consequences.”

“Trash the Planet” is an incredibly clever representative of the clicker game genre, as it subverts the not always overtly expressed, yet implicitly communicated idea of progress inherent in such games. In five different acts, all of which contain their own game mechanics, we follow the story of a gang of raccoons. At first, they can only search for food and collect garbage, but soon the limitations of this natural life are blown up.

In the second act, however, the black and white rascals suddenly develop self-awareness and intelligence. Quickly they are able to speak, write, build shelters as well as farms and research new ways to make their lives more comfortable. In doing so, they take their cue from humanity and gain insight into things that should have been better hidden from them, including money printing (“Humans print this stuff all the time and then they use it to get more stuff. Seems pretty harmless.”) as well as the stock market (“The stock market is basically just a giant trashcan you can pull value from whenever you want.”).

The middle and main part of the game then takes place in a not so distant future, where the mayor of the raccoons collects horrendous profits thanks to the stock market. With the help of his crew’s advice, not only are the absurd manipulation possibilities of the market explained to him, but he is also made aware of what the money should actually be used for. In contrast to the first two acts of “Trash the Planet”, it is no longer about the purpose of the resource itself, but only about the accumulation.

The last two acts then serve to communicate and illustrate the core messages: That multimillionaires as well as billionaires will not stop the climate catastrophe, that an uncontrollable capitalism will always be willing to walk over corpses for profit, and that economic growth should never be the top maxim. At the same time, “Trash the Planet” also poses serious questions, such as the complicity of silent partners in such a system. As bleak as all these insights and questions may be, hardly any indie game has ever conveyed it in such a concise and fascinating way. [PLAY]