Finally, A Video Game About The Boat

The author (left) trying to hit his deadlines (right).
Photo: Suez Canal Authority/HO/AFP (Getty Images)

You’ve no doubt heard by now about (literally) the largest story in the world. Three days ago, the Ever Given, a 1,300-foot freight liner, grounded on both shores of the Suez Canal, blocking any passage for any other boats. Despite the best efforts of engineers, tugboats, and one very determined bulldozer. It’s still stuck. As of roughly one hour ago, you can experience the bulldozer’s situation through the lens of a video game.

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That’s right. After three painfully long days, the gaming angle has finally washed ashore. Break out the champagne, everyone!

Suez Canal Bulldozer, released on itch.io by designer Eric Wilder, casts you as the bulldozer. Maybe you’ve seen the memes, both about the bulldozer and its equally ineffectual counterpart, the excavator. People on Twitter likened these efforts to other insurmountable causes: trying to stem anxiety about covid-19 by going on a walk, for instance, or trying to change systemic problems through meaningless (in the big picture) individual choices.

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The controls couldn’t be simpler. You use the left and right arrow keys to move back and forth. You tap “J” to instigate an “action”—in this case, a feeble attempt to dislodge the boulder wedging the Ever Given into the bank. Suez Canal Bulldozer both looks and sounds like Pokémon Red or Blue.

Kotaku tried out the game for a bit this afternoon. No matter what you do, the boulder will not move. Every time you try, you’ll face the same message: “It’s super stuck.”, an unmistakable reference to the “It’s super effective!” pop-up in mainline Pokémon games.

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“I just thought the futility of the meme was hilarious,” Wilder told Kotaku over email. “Had to spin that into a game.”

It’s unclear why the Ever Given has taken off the way it has despite, well, not taking off at all. Logistically, the situation is nothing to scoff at. According to CNBC, the Ever Given costs the global supply chain billions of dollars per day. Some observers suggest it could even impact global trade on semiconductors, which are currently in short supply and are essential components in the production of everything from cars to computers to, yes, sorry, the PlayStation 5. (That’s why you’ve had such a hard time getting your hands on one, by the way.)

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And yet, this whole thing is fucking hilarious—and oddly poignant, or at least relatable. You look at the boat, and you feel a kinship. For the past year, many of us have felt stuck in place, condemned to various degrees of isolation and inertia by an unprecedented global pandemic. We’ll get where we need to someday, as will the boat. In the meantime, at least there’s a silly game to tide us over.

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Staff Writer, Kotaku

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