Offbeat Games: No Pineapple Left Behind
Let’s be real for a minute: The education system in the U.S. is kind of a trainwreck, and a lot of the wreckage is because of the No Child Left Behind Act.
Passed in 2002, No Child Left Behind is a carrot-and-stick approach to maintaining standards in public schools. If a school performs at or above expectations, they get funding. If they don’t, they face corrective action. The decision to offer the carrot or employ the stick is based on one tool: standardized tests.
The major flaw in No Child Left Behind lies in the fact that each child is an individual. Students learn and grow at their own rate. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses. (It’s almost like children are people!) On top of that, socio-economic status and home environments factor massively in student success. Standardized tests would only serve as an effective method of evaluation if we were dealing with standardized children living in standardized environments. The idea behind No Child Left Behind was that schools would be forced to provide better education. The reality was that schools that were already privileged were rewarded, while students that were already underserved were deprived further, and teachers were forced to shape their classrooms around the tests instead of providing a rich and immersive learning environment.
Tl;dr: No Child Left Behind totally screwed both kids and teachers.
Developer Seth Alter worked as a teacher in this system for six months before quitting in disgust. He was unhappy with the callous attitude the administration of his school displayed toward his students, and he felt he could do a better job of teaching by making games. He started Subaltern Games with that goal in mind.
“No Pineapple Left Behind” is an unsubtle and scathing commentary on the public K-12 education system in America. In the game, a wizard turns all of the children in a school into pineapples. Pineapples are simple; you could even say they’re standardized. Play your cards right; and the children stay pineapples. Play them wrong and they turn back into children — and children are more expensive and harder to manage. Pineapples are standardized. Children are people.
As the principal, your job is to manage the school without going bankrupt and manage the curriculum, teachers, and students. How do you do this? By dehumanizing the children by making them pineapples and working the teachers to exhaustion and then firing them.
- Cast magic spells like “Trigonomancy” or “Covalency” to teach students.
- Manipulate a child’s feelings with lasers.
- Address parental concerns, or maybe ignore them altogether.
Remember how I said “scathing” and “unsubtle”? Yeah.
“No Pineapple Left Behind” is set to launch this winter, but it’s currently in a free open alpha. If you want to play it now (keep in mind it’s unfinished!), you can try it out here.