Vivienne (or Vava), is a well known optimist and purveyor of happiness. Who has a deep seeded love for gaming, pop culture, fantasy, horror and the Arts. They mostly survive off of chaos and the incessant call in their brain to create things.
May 7, 2021
Power Struggle Games
Like many others in their 20’s or 30’s, my introduction to the stock market started with ‘stonk’ memes and GameStop. Despite my limited knowledge of stocks, I was still interested in checking out a game based on the subject matter. Whilst The Invisible Hand didn’t turn out to be the educational resource on legal stock trading that I so desperately needed, it certainly does allow those with nefarious intentions or a desperate hunger for money to take advantage of the stock market and live out their manipulatory dreams. All within good jest, of course!
The Invisible Hand is a satirical take on the stock market and those who work in it. You’ll throw caution and morals to the wayside as you take on the role of a stockbroker. One who is willing to do anything it takes to make a profit. This stock market simulation game presents itself very differently from others, parodying the lifestyle of these corrupt yet crafty individuals.
The game starts straight up with a confusing and stressful barrage of stocks and line graphs. After a few chaotic seconds of panicked phone calls and text flying across the screen, I realised this must be what a stock market crash looks like. It’s definitely a jarring introduction to the game, with nothing really telling you what is going on. Though nothing you do at this stage really matters, it does at least set the overall chaotic mood of The Invisible Hand.
You then find yourself jobless and sitting in the company building of Ferios. After the crash, it seems you’re now applying for a new intern position, and you come highly recommended by a “trustworthy employee”. It’s a pretty standard interview, even making you take a questionnaire, made mandatory for new hires by the Trade and Investment Commission (TIC). This is your first introduction to the TIC, who are watching your answers very closely. They are always watching.
The game may sound a tad dry at this stage, but it is a lot more mischievous and full of satire than you may think. The aim of this game is to make money, using any means necessary. As long as you avoid the watchful eyes of the TIC and keep your public opinion in the green, you can use any little tricks you have in your arsenal to get those gains.
Your life now revolves around Ferios. You’ll practically be living here, or so they tell you. The office space you have to explore is pretty empty of things to do, aside from pick up and move a few objects. Though you’re told pretty early on to keep your desk free of clutter, I of course completely ignored that. You’re playing as a pretty shady individual after all, so I wanted to see how far I could push and cause a little mischief. Let’s just say that by the end of the game I had a monopoly on framed pictures on my desk. The meat of the game is spent at this otherwise boring and stressful desk after all, so why not make it look nice and have some fun?
Once you’re through the tutorial content, you can begin to get those gains. You’ll have access to one screen that is dedicated to the buying of stocks, and flicking to the second screen lets you keep track of everything you’ve done. There are many choices in stocks, materials, products, or even currencies to invest in. You have the ability to order stocks “Long” or “Short” and to also liquidate them when you so choose. The challenge is to figure out which stocks to invest in. Luckily there are a few ways you can get an insight into the future rise and fall of stocks.
There is the ‘Trade Feed’ for you to look through which is kind of like a Twitter feed for stockbrokers. Discovering which insights are trustworthy and more accurate is up to you to find out. On the second screen you can gain a bit more of a solid insight on what to buy. There is the International News Network (INN) that gives you clues for a fee. You know, the more LEGAL of the choices. Then we have GEISTnet, the closed network made up of information brokers and anonymous insiders. Consider this the “ace up your sleeve”. It’s the illegal, but always accurate, choice.
To add to the legal issues, you even have lobbyists to bribe and send off as you wish. You will want to use them in certain situations, especially to meet some of your daily challenges. Meeting these daily challenges adds to your overall position at the end of the workday when you’re evaluated. Since the aim of the game is to be the best and climb your way to the top, you want to make sure you complete them. When you’re evaluated, you also have the chance to buy lifestyle products like cars or condos which is a fun little thing to add. Without having these little extras to think about, I would have likely quit the game out of frustration long ago.
Everything moves quite fast in this environment. This can definitely aid you if you’re confident in your position, or really screw you over if you’re anything like me and have no idea what you are doing. This is something the game devs thankfully thought about because in the back corner of the office is a little slice of paradise where you can get some coffee or tea. Depending on the strength you drink, the coffee will speed up the time passed and the tea will slow it right down. You better believe the entire time I was playing The Invisible Hand I was absolutely CHUGGING that tea.
The game is a constant battle of keeping on top of everything. It moves quite quickly and doesn’t do an amazing job of making sure the player is keeping up with the pace and not getting bogged down by the confusion of the stock market. You’re always in a competition of “who is the best” against other employees. You’ll be trying to sway them to your side and make them like you while watching them get fired in the same breath. Definitely not the kind of game to play if you feel bad about hurting imaginary characters’ feelings and definitely not the kind of game to play if you’re not at least a little bit interested in the stock market. And that’s unfortunately where the game falls short for me. It is a wonderfully put together simulation that gives a satirical feel to what it’s like to be a shady trades broker. However, this game would only be enjoyed by a certain niche of gamer out there. I always felt as though I just wasn’t the target market for this game. The repetition of stockbroking turned into a confusing and dull grind with an aim of wealth I didn’t personally feel passionate about.
The Invisible Hand is oftentimes more frustrating and confusing than it is fun. It’s definitely made for people who are more knowledgeable or interested in the subject matter of trading stocks. Though, even from the point of view of someone who knows nothing about stock markets, I can see its value to those who do. It’s satirical and well crafted for what it is. Even I could have some fun while playing the game. Ultimately though, this game is not made for everyone, and that’s okay. Those who find themselves in The Invisible Hand’s niche corner will no doubt find some nefarious fun to be had.