Review – Black Marker

In this browser-based game, the player assumes the role of a government worker tasked with censoring sensitive information in a series of documents. Potentially concerning phrases are highlighted, and the player can either click on them or not. Clicking is the equivalent of wiping an opaque black marker over them to redact the text.

An “ABOUT” explains why the author designed this game, and expresses the opinion that some degree of censoring is beneficial. I realize that I am at odds with some of my friends when I say that I share this opinion. However, if the author’s intent was to show that there is a reasonable balancing point when it comes to legitimate use of censoring, this game does not accomplish that goal; rather, this game is a good illustration of how the process can go wrong.

[The following information is need to know only]

As written, the main character has little choice: the job is to censor documents according to a list of rules, some of which seem reasonable, but some are oppressive or too subjective to apply consistently:

* Censor anything that might harm the people.
* Censor anything that the people shouldn’t know.
* Don’t censor too much.

Okay, harming people is bad. Censoring names of vulnerable people seems reasonable. The definitions of “shouldn’t know” and “too much” are problematic, unless further guidance is provided, but I have to assume that someone put in this position has been through some in-service trainings.

However, the next few rules are beyond the pale:

* Censor anything that might embarrass the Agency.
* Do not make the Agency look like it has something to hide.

At this point, the player has no in-game choice. Maybe there should be an option quit their job at this point, which would make this a short but realistic game.

The story does a good job of starting with minor items, buttering up the player with some praise, and incrementally giving the player material of greater and greater sensitivity. The player is slowly co-opted and applies the marker more and more liberally for increasingly questionable motives. Finally, the player is little more than a lackey, cleansing the records to cover up his agency’s shortcomings.

After the player advances to a high-stakes position, the game more or less stops. I found the ending abrupt, and would have preferred to see the player put in the position of whether to whistleblow or not.


Story: 7. Good concept and discussion.

Voice: 8

Play: 8

Polish: 9

Technical: 6


Preliminary Score: 7.6

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