You need money to pay your rent, buy food, and cover your wife’s medical bills. Then comes the winter season, and you need to spend extra on heating. Just as you are about to lose all hope, you find a job. It’s not exactly what you dreamed of, but it pays the bills.
Frick Frack begins with you, the protagonist, reading a job posting in the newspaper for oil well operation workers; the job is paid per sq ft dug. With the financial burden on your shoulders, you have no choice but to begin working; however, your actions bring a series of consequences to the environment we all live in.
Frick Frack is a puzzle simulation game about love, capitalism, and hydraulic fracturing. The protagonist you play as has a daily routine of fracking, in which you dig tunnels and extract oil; the more you dig, the more you are paid. During your digging, you may also encounter some wildlife such as moles and mysterious creatures that spit fire. These creatures can injure you and result in the day ending early with little or no money earned.
The bills increase as the week goes by, and you have to pay all of them with the money you’ve earned from fracking. You must dig more and more oil to afford the living of you and your wife, who has a physical disability and cannot help lessen the financial burden. The consequences of your actions, however, impact more than just the people around you. The newspapers report that the local fracking rigs have damaged water supply, and resulted in an increase of food costs due to scarcity. Killing wildlife also hurts the balance of nature. Though the work you do is against your values and beliefs, when reality hits, you can do nothing but sacrifice them for a piece of bread.
There is, however, a good ending to the game. If you choose to dig less for the good of the environment, you’ll soon discover good news: the Green New Deal is passed and 2000 new jobs are created by an environmental agency. You may have been through a tough time with little food and heating in the game, but all the sacrifices would be paid off in the end.
We interviewed the developer of the game, Weston Bell-Geddes, on how he came up with the game’s concept. According to Weston, the game is about how capitalism forces people to choose between the people we love and the things we care about. The blue-collar fracking worker is an example he uses to present the problem of how people are forced to do things they don’t like so they can care for themselves and those they love. “And that’s not a problem with morality, that’s a problem with the system,” said Weston, “I wanted to make a game that reminds privileged people about the part of life they don’t see or have to worry about.”
Frick Frack aims to give players something more than just fun gameplay; the thought-provoking experience hopes to inspire reflection on how certain behaviors impact the environment. Fracking harms our drinking water and health, and ultimately causes damage to our communities and climate change.
Frick Frack began as a student project from the course CTIN 483 “Introduction to Game Development”, where Weston, developer of Frick Frack, fell in love with the idea of using games to spread messages about social good. He continued development after the semester concluded.