The flash game Unmanned is a game based on the lives of U.S. air force UAV (unmanned aerial vehice) drone pilot. The game combines choice-based text interaction as well as various tasks requiring the mouse that take place onscreen. Though relatively short, Unmanned broaches significant aspects regarding the lives of depersonalized warfare and the military personal who actively participate in it. The game illustrates these points by following the daily life of a male, blond UAV pilot.
Unmanned is of the “showing rather than telling” camp when it comes to the morals of the game, and each scene in the game conveys specific messages while simultaneously contributing to the overall theme. The game starts with our protagonist having a nightmare that he is being attacked by middle eastern citizens (most likely Afghan) presumably out of spite or vengeance. This demonstrates the inner guilt of many UAV pilots who never actually face their targets.
The game moves on to our hero going through the menial tasks of his day like shaving and driving to work, all the while the player is presented with multiple text options to represent the thoughts (and later dialogue) of the protagonist. While the player feels that they are “on rails” so to speak, they are free to express their own attitude about actions happening in the game.
At the end of each life sequence in the game, the player has the potential to be awarded accolades for seemingly insignificant deeds (e.g. shaving, playing videogames with your kid, etc) in the same style as military medals. This point juxtaposes the concept of valor with tasks that are quite undeserving of recognition. As war becomes more depersonalized, how should we respond to it’s participants? Can we truly praise or chastise someone who presses a button? How does said detached military actions affect soldiers’ attitudes about them? Such issues are addressed by Unmanned.
An interesting game mechanic of Unmanned is how a player occasionally has to balance time between in-game actions like keeping a UAV focused on a potential insurgent and maintaining conversation with the cute coworker. Both options require use of the mouse, so players must shuffle between the two. I felt that this mechanic really helped to illustrate a sentiment of juggling military action and casual demeanor/conversation.
Check out Unmanned for yourself and see how the actions of a UAV pilot resonate with you