“Fort McMoney” is an interactive multimedia look inside the boomtown of Fort McMurray, the third-largest oil reserve in the world, and an economically thriving city. While the underlying spectre of reliance on oil provides a bit of drama, the experience feels rather whitebread, with most interactions yielding minimal drama or intrigue. It’s extremely well put-together technically, and I think the technics far overshadow the interest of the subject matter.
The aesthetic is quite effective, with the blend of panoramic, navigable images with interactable objects, interspersed with dynamic images that add life to the scene.
The sections with all live video are well-produced and informative, and the personal anecdotes make an inherently dry, impersonal subject a bit more engaging.
The woman narrator guiding the experience gives us the sense that we are on an important journey, and that we are a significant player in this journey. But are we?
While these aesthetic touches really enhance the experience, the subject matter is still a tough sell. Do we really care about the economics of Fort McMurray if we are not involved in the field of economics or urban planning? This seems like a great experience for certain classrooms, but its general appeal feels limited outside of its aesthetic.
As we dive into the game and check out all the available interactions, it seems a bit overwhelming, to the point that everything kind of blends together in a “does any of this really matter?” sentiment, at least to me, a person who isn’t particularly interested in city economics. There is so much granularity available right from the beginning of the experience— statistics of all kinds, things you can vote for— it’s a bit exhausting. From a critical point of view the detail fleshes out the experience, but from a game design POV, it feels like it throws a bit too much at us at once without giving us a clear understanding of what we are trying to achieve.
I was most engaged by the aesthetic, panning around environments and seeing what I could interact with, and who I could speak to, even if many of the conversations were ultimately not that exciting.
In this age of green energy and evil oil, Fort McMurray seems to be built on an unsustainable foundation, so watching them invest in new luxury projects using this oil money does present interesting topical questions, and it seems like those are are the kinds of questions the creator hoped to raise.
Also— who am I, the player? Why do I have so much influence in this town? My role feels a bit underdefined from the start, and leaves me feeling like an arbitrary voice in a town I don’t belong to.