Yesterday I found a game called “McDonalds’s Videogame”, this is a game designed to teach the player about a side of large corporations like McDonald’s that they may not be aware of. It’s a game with a very clear viewpoint and it’s not shy about getting its points across in the tutorial.
In this game you have four play screens:
1. The outskirts of San José, where you put down fields of soy and cattle.
2. The feedlot where your cows get fattened up and then slaughtered, which is just shown as the cows getting lifted off the screen by a magical crane and burger patties coming out of the machine.
3. A McDonald’s, hire people to make burgers and serve the customers.
4. McDonald’s headquarters, here you can see what the board thinks of your progress, run advertising campaigns and corrupt various officials through your PR team.
So there’s choices to be made in each area, do you want GM soy, more cattle in each field, bulk up the feed with hormones or industrial waste, keep your employees motivated which tends to be giving them a badge or firing one of them. Most of these activities, along with the advertising and corruption operations run from head office, cost you money and the only thing bringing money is selling tasty, tasty burgers to the public.
As you expand your operation you need more land (land you graze cattle on eventually becomes unusable) you’ll cut down rainforests and the environmentalists will protest you. Workers aren’t happy, get new workers! Employee rights groups protest you. Making kids obese or people ill because a sick cow became a burger before you could send it to cow heaven. More protests, the knock-on of all this protesting is less people want your burgers, so business gets drastically reduced for a few months.
You can try and combat this with advertising and corrupting officials. But here you have to change around what you’re doing, the same advertising campaigns get old, so that boost you got wears off and the number of customers falls.
And head office, all they want it growth. You’re never expanding and growing the business fast enough so you’re pushed to try and sell more and more burgers. This in turn leads you to spend more and more money…
All in all it’s a game you can’t win, in my first three attempts the game lasted barely 5 minutes each before I was fired because I had lost McDonalds so much money because I was trying to expand, like head office demands, but wasn’t selling enough tasty, tasty burgers because I was getting protested against and fined for serving the customers bad meat, my adverts just didn’t boost business enough.
It’s stacked against you, but this just made me determined to ‘win’. So what happened in the fourth game?
I was put in charge of McDonald’s in January 2000, I surveyed my pristine farmland in San José and visited my clean, new restaurant .
I started off slowly. I kept the minimal amount of cows in the fields and front loaded soy production. I hired one person to make burgers and one to serve the public. Those first few years were hard, head office wasn’t happy with the rate of growth but they couldn’t get rid of me as I was making money.
As the years went on I bulldozed the rainforest for farmland and fully staffed up my McDonald’s. Advertising was in full effect so we had a constant stream of people through that door. Protests would still have a major effect in customer numbers and we had to fight them all.
This early stage of the game was still heavy in the micromanagement, changing advertising campaigns regularly and combating negative PR with our PR machine. Employees would regularly need firing as they didn’t smile on the job and that’s not the face we’re showing the public!
About 2025 I hit a tipping point where things mostly started running themselves. I had no soy fields any more, I had a huge stock pile, and all my land was given over to cattle. Head office still wasn’t happy with the growth but they never will be. I was running all the advertising and PR (corruption) campaigns, it was costing a lot of money per month but it didn’t matter since I was raking it in. The general population finally got the message about my tasty, tasty burgers and they couldn’t get enough.
Various groups and officials were constantly protesting my operations, but it didn’t matter because the public wanted burgers. I could let sick and mad cows become burgers, but it didn’t matter because the public loved burgers. I could fire any employee that wasn’t smiling and just hire a new one, but it didn’t matter because the public needed burgers.
The machine was running itself, all I had to do was get rid of unhappy employees. People like a smile with their burger.
Then, one day in March 2054 there was no more land and there were no more cows.
But that didn’t matter, we had plenty of stocks of burger patties!
Eventually all the patties were made into burgers, waiting to be sold to the public who just couldn’t get enough of my tasty, tasty burgers. The preparation staff got let go at this point, as there simply wasn’t any work for them to do. They protested us, along with environmentalist and health groups but we couldn’t hear them over the sound of people buying burgers.
May 2063, the burgers run out. There’s nothing to do except turn away the customers and fire the remaining staff.
All PR and advertising campaigns are shut down. No money is going out and no money is coming in. There’s no where to move my farming operations so in August 2065 I’m force to leave McDonald’s, taking with me my share of the massive profits we made.