TORONTO – Rob Ford moves nimbly across a football field, dodging reporters with microphones outstretched and narrowly missing cameras, as Toronto’s city hall gleams in the background of the chaos.
No, this isn’t the scene of a media scrum outside of city hall – but a taste of the “Stay Mayor” videogame that stars Toronto’s embattled mayor.
The object of the game is simple: users must maneuver the mayor through a maze of reporters and cameramen to collect bags of money in order to get enough cash to buy the alleged crack smoking video before U.S. news organization Gawker.
Users are forced to dodge crack pipes and collect buckets of deep-fried foods in order to get their hands on footballs to heave at the mobs of media personnel trying to get in the mayor’s way.
The goal: To “stay mayor.”
A screenshot from the ‘Stay Mayor’ game
The game, a free downloadable app for Android smartphones, is based off of controversy surrounding a video that allegedly shows someone who matches the appearance of mayor Ford smoking what appears to be crack cocaine. Global News has not seen and cannot verify the authenticity of the alleged video.
Ford has repeatedly denied the allegations, stating, “I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict of crack cocaine,” and has called the allegations “ridiculous.”
When reports of the video surfaced from Gawker and The Toronto Star in May, a media frenzy surrounding the mayor and his family ensued.
This was the perfect opportunity for the game’s visionary Ben McEvoy and his partners at ‘Extra! Extra! Games’ to test out their business idea – games with newsworthiness.
“The Rob Ford thing is kind of a low-hanging fruit,” McEvoy told Global News.
“I think it just kind of made sense to start with – because there are a lot of really fun, juicy details in the story that the game could play off of.”
The team at Extra! Extra! spared no details when it came to developing the game.
The game’s description on the Google Play store reads, “Only your twinkle toes can out-maneuver the Blood Thirsty Media to help him collect more than they did in that damn “Crackstarter” campaign. $201,255 to be exact.”
If users lose the game by stepping on too many crack pipes or bumping into too many cameras, then a message appears that reads, “Bunch of maggots” – a term the mayor used to describe the media on his weekly radio show, later apologizing for the remark.
McEvoy said that the game has received both positive and negative feedback, some loving the political satire that goes along with it and others chastising the company for being potentially libellous.
But the team covered their legal ground when developing the game, in case of public backlash and even possible complaints from the mayor’s office.
“We did consult with a lawyer to make sure that what we were doing was well within the satire laws that are currently in place,” said McEvoy.
“What we are doing as developers is no different than what a political cartoonist would be doing for a newspaper. We are not trying to do anything that is defamatory or libellous.”
McEvoy and his team are not just picking on the mayor; in fact, they plan on picking on any politician or public figure that comes into trouble – so long as it makes headlines.
“It could take on any subject really – Stephen Harper or Silvio Berlusconi – who knows. Whatever comes up in the news we want to be able to take it and make a game and get it to the marketplace,” said McEvoy.
“We are kind of like the Lois Lane of the gaming world now.”
The company, that is only six weeks out of the starting gate, was born out of the idea of making games based on news stories so that people would pick up on the game as the story evolved.
“Personally I’m a big political observer – at one point I wanted to be a political cartoonist,” said McEvoy.
“It’s a very different marketplace when you are a cartoonist, but now there is the opportunity to build mini games with the same sort of social commentary. Technology is so advanced and so many countless people are out there to support it.”
Toronto-based McEvoy teamed up with the developers responsible for the Ikea Monkey game to create the company. Made up of only McEvoy, his two partners and a group of graduates from Seneca College (where McEvoy and one of his partners teach) the team managed to build and release the game in only two weeks.
Although they are working on further developing ‘Stay Mayor’ to make improvements in speed and platform capabilities, the team hopes to keep on the news grind by quickly creating games that are fun and newsworthy.
The game has only reached about 500 downloads since being released, but the team plans to release an iOS version for iPhones and iPads by next week which may increase the user base.
Eventually the team hopes to be putting out a newsworthy game every week.
“Wherever the news goes, we follow,” said McEvoy.
© 2013 Shaw Media