America 2049: A Star-Studded Facebook Game That's Ambitiously All Over the Place

A human rights organization goes for a big splash with a Facebook game with both online and offline elements.

A new Facebook-based game, "America 2049," is an interesting object study in platform agnosticism. It's called a "Facebook-based" game because of the way it integrates countless resources, both online and offline: multimedia, clues from around the Web, and even real-life events at cultural institutions like the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the Bosque Redondo Memorial in New Mexico. The game is so all over the place that you're almost tempted to call it an "event." Which is exactly what Breakthrough, the global human rights organization behind the game, is angling for.

Here, a kind of migraine-inducing trailer for the game, which went live today.

You might have recognized, among other faces, Harold Perrineau of Lost and Victor Garber of Alias fame. Both donated their services to Breakthrough, along with Cherry Jones of 24, Anthony Rapp of Rent, and comedian Margaret Cho.

"America 2049" takes place in the country and year of the title; players report to the Garber figure, who heads something called the Council on American Heritage, and are sent to capture an alleged terrorist, played by Perrineau. Players move through what Breakthrough terms "a divided America of the near future: splintered by race and ethnicity, hostile to women, sexuality, and self-expression." "America 2049," in other words, hits that sweet spot where sci-fi nerd-dom and social activism meet: the dystopian future genre. Don't want things to get that bad later? Then fix things now—and via its site, Breakthrough has a few ideas how you might do that...

In the words of CEO Mallika Dutt, the game "parachutes us into an alternate reality perhaps not so far from our own, where we find America poised at a crossroads, and where we are asked to make critical decisions about how we truly want to define ourselves as a nation. The game experience allows us to immerse ourselves in a future that could be—but also inspires us to envision, and recommit to, a real America built on pluralism, democracy, dignity, equality, and human rights for all."

Another reason the game might be best described as an "event" is that it is time-pegged. Over 12 weeks, gamers will be given a series of "missions" related to various issues in human rights: sex trafficking, race, religion, labor, immigration, and so on. And cultural organizations throughout the country will be having events on related themes. In addition to the two mentioned earlier, the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Mich., the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York City, the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum in Chicago, and several others will be hosting the events.

It's almost too ambitious. But then again, if it takes just a few gamers away from wasteful hours planting virtual tomatoes, it will have done its part.

Follow Fast Company on Twitter. Email David Zax, the author of this post.

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