In February 2015, the Wall Street Journal conducted a survey to see what percentage of Americans supported same sex marriage and marriage equality. The results indicated that 59 percent of Americans favor the practice. Compare that to USA Today‘s survey back in 2009, where they found only 40 percent supported marriage equality for all. Now that gay marriage has been legalized in the United States, many companies are coming forth to show their support, such as Atari with their latest free to play game for Android and IOS, “Pridefest.” However, instead of feeling like another step forward for equality in the media, Atari’s latest attempt feels more like a few steps backward.
To be frank, the game’s worst offense is how little it seems to actually promote the LGBT community. When opening the application, the first image you’ll see does have little details that would make you believe it’s a big promoter of equality, such as the words “straight alliance” and “love is love.” However, within the game itself, there’s next to nothing that would give any indication of said support. Instead, you get a by the numbers Sim City experience, building grocery stores and boutiques to gain revenue for your growing town. Sure, there’s some bright colors and a few rainbows here and there, but where’s the identity that warrants the title “Pridefest?” The only real major distinction between this game and other “city builders” is the player’s use of pride parades to not only access farther parts of the city, but to also build public morale. While it can be nice to see your parades grow over time and the morale shift from gray and hazy to bright and colorful, these marches are the only thing that can allow the player to make any kind of progress in the game. Which means, you’ll be starting the same parade at least twenty times before you’ve completed just a little town. By the time your city has grown to the limits, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to expect running parades over 100 times. It’s this lack of variety in how your town thrives that will turn many people off after a couple of hours, because who wants to spend $50 on in-game tokens for an experience that’s passable at best?
There is a great experience waiting to burst out beneath Atari’s “Pridefest,” but the game’s free to play walls prevent it from ever being anything remarkable. While it’s admirable that Atari would, right out of the gate, show their support to marriage equality, it would just be a lot nicer if the game itself reflected this. Overall, if you’re used to the greediness of free to play games, you might be able to find something, at the very least, mildly distracting here for a few hours. However, “Pridefest” would have benefited far greater from an actual identity behind the equality banner it tries so hard to wave proudly.