New York City’s subway disaster now has its own 8-bit video game

The Verge

‘We’re just three idiots who make topical video games’

Straphangers who want to experience the rolling nightmare that is New York City’s subway system from the comfort of their own home are in luck. A new video game called “MTA Country,” which debuted this week, takes players on a treacherous ride through graffiti-lined tunnels filled with electrical fires, broken tracks, and stalled subway cars.

Users play as Gregg T., the face of the MTA’s “New Yorkers Keep New York Safe” safety ad campaign, who has since become a bit of a meme. At the start of the game, Gregg T. jumps into a subway car with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Together, the three must leap over track fires and broken-down subway cars full of irritated passengers while dodging pizza rats and passing under graffiti tags that say “Giuliani was here.”

The goal is to collect subway tokens and a series of glowing letters that — spoiler alert — eventually spell out the word “PRIVATIZE.” At that point, the subway car turns into a shimmering hyperloop pod, and Gregg T. disembarks safely in Washington, DC.

It’s been about as long as the last F train rolled in, but we’re back with another game about the world’s most reliable subway system: the NYC MTA.

The game was created by Everydayarcade, a creative collective of advertising professionals that makes hot-button video games in their spare time. The group has created video games for The New York Times and The Outline. A satirical anti-Trump game, in which players throw stereotyped Mexican characters over an ever-rising border between the US and Mexico, was rejected by Apple’s App Store for being too offensive.

“We’re just three idiots who make topical video games, so we have no idea how to fix the subway,” Mike Lacher, one of the game’s creators, said in an email. “Everybody seems to propose a solution, so we thought it would be funny to play one out to the extreme. Collecting letters to spell out “RAISE FARES OVER FIVE YEARS TO FINANCE SIGNAL IMPROVEMENTS” would take too long, and be kind of a downer.”

(Lacher’s co-creator, Chris Baker, told the New York Post, “We didn’t want to hit anyone over the head with the libertarianism. We wanted it to be a funny joke that does have some merit.”)

Lacher said he and his friends were inspired to make the game by countless hours of being trapped on broken-down trains. “The three of us live in New York, and, like pretty much everyone in New York, have been frustrated by the subways,” he said. “We’ve spent lots of time trapped underground or fighting to get into full trains.”

He continued, “We’ve also been watching the intense debate and arguments around it, and we were amused by what an inescapable mess it seems to be and how no one can possibly take accountability for it. So we decided to poke some fun at the absurdity with an absurd game. We got excited about the connection between the abandoned mine level in Donkey Kong and the declining state of the subway.”

The buck-passing over the subway came into view this week as de Blasio and Cuomo sniped at each other over a $19 billion proposal to overhaul the subway. The money would pay to modernize the subway’s signal system and replace antiquated equipment, but New York’s governor and mayor characteristically couldn’t agree on who should shoulder most of the cost. (The correct answer is Cuomo, who appoints the majority of the MTA’s board members and controls its purse strings.)

I asked Lacher whether he’d prefer to ride a hyperloop, a non-existent technology first conceived by Elon Musk, rather than the subway. “In theory, sure!” he said. “A superfast, brand-new hyperloop would be a lot better than a vomit-caked C train with no air conditioning. Sadly, a one-mile test track under LA doesn’t do us a lot of good. I guess you could say the best thing about the NYC subway is that at least it exists.”


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