Capitalism and democracy may not be perfect, but they're the systems that run much of the free world, and likely will until the giant space ants finally return to harvest humanity.
Though capitalism has a way of turning workers into numbers and then devouring them, it can also drive people and corporations to perform great acts of charity.
Capitalism Quest by Steve O'Gorman is an interesting experiment that lets you experience both sides of the system. You may be surprised at what you end up doing, even if you consider yourself a benevolent person.
"But thou must (profit)"
The graphics in Capitalism Quest are purposefully primitive and heavily resemble the earliest Dragon Quest games on the NES. There's a single, sprawling world that all the players share (though you don't see each other).
The world is pocked with tiles that represent different terrain, including desert, trees, grass, snowy mountains, rocky mountains, and water.
You accumulate coins as you move around, and with a bit of work, your pocket change can start you on the road to building an empire.
When you land on a tile, you're allowed to exploit it for resources. A tree can become a lumber mill. Mountains can become iron mines and quarries.
You can gather resources every few hours, which can go into more efficient mines and lumber mills. You can also build markets and houses that appreciate in value.
Even though you can't see other players, their spoor is always present. You can learn who "owns" a tile by standing on it and tapping the screen. Some players have multi-screen "cities" with dozens of mines, markets, and houses.
Happiness is not a fish that you can catch
Here's the thing about Capitalism Quest. You don't have to suck up every last nutrient Mother Nature provides for you. You can also perform charity by planting trees and building roads. The latter project is beneficial for everyone, since roads let you move far more quickly over rough ground.
If you do something nice that benefits other players, your happiness meter goes up. If you continue to pursue profit, it goes down.
The happiness / greed balance commentary is admittedly over-simplified, and your happiness score is simply something to brag over on Game Center.
Still, it's interesting how little regard I had for my own happiness while playing Capitalism Quest. I was more concerned about grabbing up mines and forests before my invisible neighbour had a chance to claim them.
I'm surprised and disappointed in myself. Pass the whip.
You're not perfect
Capitalism Quest is simple, but addictive (apparently humanity has an inborn desire to drain resources and dispose of the husks - oh gosh, Agent Smith from The Matrix was right about us all along).
Its 8-bit graphics do the job, though you can never get your property to look attractive (maybe that's the point), and it's very hard to see what's up for sale in shops because the item graphics clash with the background graphics.
Capitalism Quest does have one major discouragement, however. It's slow.
Gathering resources and switching from screen to screen takes a long time. O'Gorman has asked players to be patient. He appears to be handling much of the game's development and maintenance on his own.
It'd be fun to wrap up this story with a remark about how capitalism will allow O'Gorman to use the money he earns from Capitalism Quest to buy a faster server, but interestingly, the game is free to play and contains no in-app purchases. Talk about a waste of a good joke.
But despite its slow pace and lack of frills (being able to fast-travel to properties you own would be amazing), Capitalism Quest is far from a waste of your time.