By Kimari Rennis
I remember watching the launch trailer for Treachery In Beatdown City during our New York Game Awards. I’ll never forget the smile on my face, and I’ll never regret it either.
Let’s get straight to the point: good, taut humor in videogames is a very rare and welcomed commodity, and it is a well-crafted pleasure that many fail to create. On top of this, we have the stress that’s going on in our society right now, whether that is getting heated over the president doing yet another distasteful thing, down to the growing hatred surrounding police officers and where we live. Sometimes we just want to get away from it all. Face it; the world is messed up and rather than sit there and mope about it, why not have a laugh and acknowledge the world we live in?
If I had an award to give, the best political and social game of satire of the year would go to Treachery in Beatdown City. It’s a retro-style beat-em-up game. But it’s not a button masher. There’s strategy involved from moment one, and there’s a detailed tutorial to help you get to know the ropes.
I’m serious. It’s one of the best games – up there with Plants Vs. Zombies in my opinion. Both have strategy elements. Both are easy to learn hard to master. But developer Shawn Alexander Allen brings you more of a mature outlook on humor. It’s a New York humor. It’s a New York satire, and that’s what allowed me to connect to Beatdown more. PVZ is set in suburban where I want to be someday. But the city and the Bronx is where I’m at now. That makes it all feel more real. I just want a nice house with a lawn and a backyard one day. But I will never forget the Bronx and New York City.
It took 10 hours of playtime to get over my disbelief and realize that Treachery in Beatdown City was a real thing. It felt like the best game I have ever played, so let me tell you all the reasons why.
Treachery in Beatdown City is not your average beat-em-up. This is a new experience chock-full of thought and power. You can’t just go in and be a crazy puncher. The number one rule is: “Winners Don’t Button Mash.” The main character is a woman of color, very tough and humorous and very realistic. She’s brought to life by the story Shawn presents. And she looks strong, too, with her muscles bulging.
There’ are role playing game elements in this offering as well. The game maker brings to light characters we don’t usually, black and brown characters of different shapes and sizes and different areas. It’s well-rounded, not the dark side of different communities that struggle a lot, like what I see in Grand Theft Auto games. And I like reading the text in old school blurbs rather than hearing it with audio. Sometimes, it’s better to read things because you can then imagine how they’re said.
There are people of color everywhere in this game. That’s a plus for me as a young woman of color. It makes me feel part of something big.
While I understand why some of the content in this game may be distasteful to others, doesn’t make them laugh, or may offend people, the simple answer to that critique is that perhaps the game just wasn’t made for you. This game was made by a man of color who hosts the Game Developers of Color Expo. This is a game that features people of color working hard to save and protect their colored President in a world where they face stereotyping, the harsh reality of peoples’ motives, and the typical nonsense and drama they see in their communities.
As a person of color, that sounds oddly familiar to the world I live in today, and I stand by the important things that this game has achieved. Bringing to light the issues that people of color face and giving us the ability to laugh about it is so important right now. Satire in this case educates us in a very pleasant, memorable way.
To make my point even clearer, police brutality is a real thing that has taken the lives of many people of color, people my age, people like George Floyd. You see it happening Right Now. But when I play Treachery in Beatdown City and I face a cop who proudly admits to getting famous on TV in a bad way for abusing innocent protestors, I don’t have to be afraid. At that moment in time, I and the character that I am playing are one. We are aligned to smirk with a witty line and proceed to knock the, dare I say, racism out of that cop with ease (but not in real life). Then, I move on in the quest to save my black president. It’s then that I am hopeful, even outside of the game.
Kimari Rennis is a senior NYVGCC intern who is about to graduate from the DreamYard Preparatory School. In the fall, she will attend NYU’s Game Center.