PAX West 2017: The Invisible Hand is About Money and Consequences

One thing that The Invisible Hand has taught me: I would be a terrible day trader. The meat of the demo of this dystopian financial simulator is based entirely on making money via buying and selling stocks. It’s not like I didn’t have the resources available to do well. On screen was a news ticker that popped up timely information to help me know when to wait and when to maximize profit, but I always jumped the gun too soon or waited too long to do what I was supposed to do. Each day ended with my boss chastising me and for good cause. I am terrible at my job.

There is plenty of indication of direction, though. A goal will be given, such as make X number of dollars in the coffee market. The player can game the system, shorting stocks and follow the news to easily reach this goal. The interface is incredibly clean and easy to navigate, allowing the player to see all required data on one screen. Anyone that wants to play around with fake money and pretend to be successful will really enjoy this.

It turns out that profit isn’t always that simple, though. In this world, making money leaves other people in the dust. Pleasing the corporate overlords takes food out of the mouths of children. That is where The Invisible Hand starts to really sound interesting. Developer Kolkhoze Games is wearing their Papers, Please inspiration on their sleeves, comparing their title to the surprise hit in their own pitch. This is a game about making money, but it is also a game about true moral choices. The player will see how their actions affect the world around them, clashing with the clinical sterility of the player’s office environment.

Now, the developer admits that this is an inherently political topic, but promises to do everything they can to remain neutral, allowing the player’s personal politics to bend the story. This is an interesting idea for sure, but one wonders if the tale will loose its teeth without an ideology firmly behind it in one direction or another. This is idle speculation on my part as this was not shown in the demo on the PAX show floor. My time was spent entirely with playing the stock market badly in hopes of making the requisite amount of money before the day ends only to be told what a disappointment I was. That’s okay. I can’t be good at everything. I would like to try my visible hand at The Invisible Hand again, just to prove to myself that I’m not a complete moron.