Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey, Where wealth accumulates, and men decay.
–Oliver Goldsmith, The Deserted Village
When you fully comprehend the impending clusterfuck that is the ever-rising income inequality gap in America, coupled with our similarly ever-rising sea levels and the ever-loosening restrictions on the multi-billion dollar companies responsible for both circumstances, you can only ask yourself one question: what’s our endgame, here?
Last year NPR published a chart tracking household income in America over the past four decades, and the end result is so overblown that—for a second—you might believe it’s from some satirical political cartoon. The visualization speaks volumes about the surreal circumstances we accept everyday: as the (presumably gold-encrusted) arrow of the 95th percentile continues to skyrocket, soaring high above the flatlining 5th percentile. Yet, no matter how much you might want to believe it’s a joke, the graph depicts only our reality, while hinting at the catastrophic future ahead.
Again, you ask yourself: what’s their end goal, here? Once the middle and lower classes are properly hollowed, how will the pyramid even stand up at all? Who will populate our planet—make it run properly—when the working class is gone? Because, of course, skyrocketing income inequality only tells half the story behind our imminent destruction. Last year, the UN’s climate panel released a report on who will suffer the most from the consequences of global warming. As The Guardian reports, “those who did the least to cause climate change [will] be the first in the line of fire: the poor and the weak, and communities that were subjected to discrimination.”
What is the endgame of capitalism, you ask yourself one more time: only to find an answer in Rebecca Merrill’s Luxury $imulator. Described as a first person game-essay, Luxury $imulator takes the player down the lonely hallways of human civilization’s last bastion of wealth and inequality. In this not-too-distant world, the one percent have finally “won” the game of capitalism, causing the entire system to collapse in on itself. At the end of the world, the remaining elite decided it was time to build a fortress-bunker, to serve as the final resting place of “human greatness.”
Each room houses an invaluable masterpiece from the art world. From Rembrandt canvases to the sculptures of Michelangelo, the echoes of our greatness sound hollow in the halls of this marble labyrinth. A woman narrates your journey throughout the exploration, herself a hollow echo of the elite’s last attempt at immortality. But rather than serving as a touching memorial, the marble statues of empires past instead capture the lessons from history we refused to learn.
The Spartans couldn’t bring down the greatest Western empire of all time, but income inequality certainly did. Recently, however, two historians discovered that income inequality in America today is actually higher than it ever was in ancient Rome. While the elite of Rome controlled an estimated 18% of the society’s wealth, the top 1 percent of Americans own an estimated 40%. The marble statues of Luxury $imulator are not the remnants of a great civilization. They’re the calcified bodies of the mistakes we’ve refused to address—the ones we’ll pay for in the future. Mistakes which will, in the end, entomb us in our own greatness.
You can play Luxury $imulator on Mac and Windows for free. Creator Rebecca Merrill’s website also features other games from with the same dystopic universe, and also teases a film version of Luxury $imulator sometime in the future.