Nothwithstanding decades long growth of the prison industrial complex, it seemed we reached a cultural nadir last year when it was announced that Florida Atlantic University intended to name its football stadium after The GEO Group, a private prison corporation, in return for a $6 million “gift” to the university’s athletic department. (Inasmuch as FAU’s team is The Owls, people soon began calling the stadium Owlcatraz.).
The news was rightly met with widespread backlash and protests, and The GEO Group withdrew the gift (apparently unwilling to honor the donation and forego the stadium naming rights). Now comes word that UK-based gaming company Introversion Software plans to soon release a full version of Prison Architect, a sim-style game where players design and manage penitentiaries.
In a guest editorial on Kotaku, Paolo Pedercini offers a thoughtful critique of the game, including the many moral and ethical issues it raises as well as the hypothetical benefits it may produce. Still-and-all, there is something fundamentally untoward about a “game” premised on a process that dehumanizes and disenfranchises untold millions. It is sad but telling that more than 300,000 pre-order versions of the game have already been sold (for $10 million).