Ever wondered what it would be like to run a school in post George W. Bush, 2001, No Child Left Behind Act fashion? Where your only job as a school administrator is making sure that children meet the standards and in no way grow as an individual? Perhaps, you grew up in this school system for a time or still currently in one, but now you get a chance to enjoy running the show.
No Pineapple Left Behind by Subaltern Games is another one of those games where it sounds so bizarre that you actually have to stop and look; and then you can’t look away. It’s based around the idea that you are hired as a school principal running a school full of children. Children that have lots of wants, needs, and feelings. That’s a problem, because if they don’t pay attention in class and get low grades, your school loses money. Your job is to make money by making them do well. However, you have the power to turn children into pineapples. All that pineapples do is take tests and get grades. They do not have feelings and are not people, but they are much simpler to handle, and therefore much cheaper.
This concept is such a statement of educational satire that I think I was hooked right away and needed to write about it. I grew up in the early No Child Left Behind era when most of the major changes to education reform happened, but only for a short time. I saw the extreme limitations of restricted expressionism unfold. It was no longer about actually learning material, it was about getting that A. Why? Because that is what we were told was important all of a sudden. In order to do well in life, we needed an A, not intelligence. For me, simply memorizing and reciting back everything I was being taught was not good enough. Test taking was simply who was the most obedient learners. I wanted to know more, experiment with my own interests, but I was actually quoted by my principal once that I “didn’t respect authority” simply by asking questioning about things, seeking bigger answers, and went outside the normal of my classmates. I wasn’t a trouble maker kid. In fact, I’d say I was an outside thinker for someone who did everything in school (Sports, academics, music, clubs, etc.). It took me only a short time after that event of being sat down by the principal to realize that – I scared him. He knew I was an individual with a growing sense of freedom as I reached graduation. I had my own thoughts and opinions about the way the school was run and that was risky to the environment of a school built on structure and control. If you had an issue, you went to the counselor because you were at fault, not the system.
But going back to the game and away from the Marx theory of labor. The point was that this top-down, school simulator actually connected with me as someone who went
through this process, and to see the other side of the coin is intriguing to me (and down right funny). To some extent, this game is more of a political statement and a bash on education through art. It may not have been the developers intent, but it reminded me a lot about Pawel Kuczynski’s Satirical Visions of War and Peace and his interpretation of the way in which traditional education is perceived by a student. In order for one to succeed, one must memorize everything thrown at us.
No Pineapple Left Behind uses that concept of satire and cartoon humor to create a game that makes you think, but in an engaging way and with a number of features. As of now you have the choice of nine schools, each with different challenges. As the administrator you get to manage the school’s curriculum, students, and staff. Did I mention you have magic powers to help dehumanize the children, turning them into orderly pineapples and use lasers. Lastly, you can address parental concerns, or maybe just ignore them altogether.
It’s a simple game. I certainly wouldn’t say it’s anything new in terms of mechanics of other similar sim-strategy games, but I think there is a lot going on with the creative motivation behind it. It’s at least worth a look and it certainly caught my attention.
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Disclaimer: I wasn’t paid in any form by the developers of this game – it is a simple opinion piece of my own choosing.