Sweatshop isn’t your average online cow-clicker. As its name implies, the game places you on the floor of an offshore factory that cranks out merchandise for high-street retailers in the West. Your job as manager: to hire workers to assemble hats, shoes, bags, and shirts at various speeds according to their skill level (or lack thereof in the case of the child laborers you also employ), all while keeping your corporate masters happy by raking in the big profits.
Produced by Littleloud, a BAFTA-winning creative studio in England, the game poses challenges in the form of moral dilemmas. Should you motivate your workers with amenities such as water coolers and portable toilets or do you subject them to long hours and verbal abuse in the name of productivity? Is a safety officer worth shelling out money for or would you rather risk the death of a few drones in a fiery industrial blaze?
Despite the cartoony treatment, the game paints an accurate portrait of the lives of sweatshop slaves.
Despite the cartoony treatment, the game paints an accurate portrait of the lives of sweatshop slaves and the causal link between our celebrity-obsessed, consumerism-driven culture and the dehumunization of the working underclass. Peppered through Sweatshop are factoids about the inequities of the fast-fashion system, courtesy of expert advice from Labour Behind the Label, a U.K. nonprofit that supports workers’ rights across the globe.
“Many of the clothes available in our high street shops have been manufactured in sweatshops, factories that routinely pay their workers less than the minimum wage, and prevent the formation of unions to campaign for better working conditions,” Littleloud writes on its website. “Sweatshop is a light-hearted game, but it’s based upon very present realities that many workers around the world contend with each day.”