How does a company that holds Socialist beliefs succeed in a capitalist market? Let me introduce you to French studio, Motion Twin, developer of the “roguelike Metroidvania” action-platformer, Dead Cells. The studio describes itself as an “anarcho-syndical workers cooperative". In a nutshell, the eleven employees at the studio do not have a “Boss”, they are ALL the “Boss.” It is not a new concept, for workers to own a company. I’d say this probably why the concept works. If you have skin in the game, your going to perform to make it happen. It’s a totally different mindset than just being a mere worker bee. People with shared passion and respect for what they do. I think there’s a significant difference between no bosses and no leads, though. I’d think of it like a project manager — it’s a valid role to keep things organized, but it doesn’t need to be hierarchical, and it can still be democratic (in other words, these leads can be chosen by the group, rather than hired into a fixed position). The non-hierarchical aspect is the essential part to me. They’re not your boss, they’re helping you get your stuff done. That’s also my response to people who are thinking this would lead to creative decisions being done by committee — it doesn’t have to be that at all. It can easily be that final creative decisions are coming from people chosen by the group to make those decisions (and who can also have that authority removed by the group). Basically a participatory economics type of setup. However, the idea of living by a mantra that people are simply not disposable resources is VERY refreshing. I pre-ordered the PS4 version and I’ll be buying everything this company does. And yes, I certainly do see the irony in leveraging capitalism to support syndicalism. The beast eats itself.
Oh and the game...
Dead Cells is fantastic. If you’ve played games like Rogue Legacy or Slay the Spire or any number of other modern Rogue-likes, the base mechanic in Dead Cells will be familiar. Go in, loot up, get as far as you can, die, repeat. But what Dead Cells shares with some of these others, and why it differs from base Rogue-likes, is that you have progression between plays. You are unlocking new weapons and attributes. You start off not being able to get very far, and before you know it you’re facing the first major boss. Then you bang your head against him several times and then you beat him and unlock a whole new challenge. Meanwhile, you’re developing muscle memory and dexterity with the controls to get even better.
I found the combat in Dead Cells to be smooth as butter and the feeling of progression, despite being a roguelike, to be extremely rewarding. There’s a ton of weapons and equipment combinations with some occasionally absurd synergies that force/encourage you to play in completely different ways. The action is very fast paced, so you can get up and running real quick. The layout changes every time, so while the theme and enemies will be similar, it’s enough variety to keep things interesting. The visuals are an acquired taste. Some may find the pixel art unattractive. I loved it, and love the game.
Dead Cells drops on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch on August 7, 2018 for $24.99.
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