Indie Puzzle Creator Goes Hard on Wealth Inequality Commentary, Adds a Dash of Humor

There’s no lack of laughs in Guildmaster StoryCanadian indie developer Will O’Neill has been able to find a niche within gaming by creating titles with dark, realistic stories that focus on social commentary. 2014’s Actual Sunlight tackled a variety of taboo subjects including depression and the corporate grind that often attributes to that, while Little Red Lie was one of 2017’s most interesting titles due to its deep examination of financial independence and social class. His past titles had some humorous moments, but they were mostly depressing plays that left players contemplating issues in their actual lives. O’Neill’s latest Steam release, Guildmaster Story, is much more upbeat in tone but packs just as much punch in its social critique.

The reason for this shift in tone is rooted in the current political climate. “Personally, I feel like much of what is happening now is out of our hands,” O’Neill told Mandatory.  “The most you can do is laugh at it, and maybe try to find the beauty in how unavoidably human all of it was.”

Guildmaster Story revolves around Ganyo, a wannabe entrepreneur from a wealthy family, that winds up destroying the business that was passed on to him by his late father. He’s essentially what Chapo Trap House would call a “failson,” as he lacks any sort of redeemable skills and has never faced any sort of hardship. For many, this would be a wake-up call, and a reason to reexamine how he had skated through life and never took responsibility for his actions. Instead, he continues to fail upwards and winds up becoming a guildmaster. It’s here where he builds a business empire even greater than the one he started off with by simply having the poor work for him on the promise that he’d dish out experience points to them. It’s a plan that mirrors a lot of scams and even legitimate, yet scummy, businesses that focus on paying in exposure rather than money.

Despite traditionally being an issue for artists, O’Neill believes that the expanding freelance and gig economy are forcing many to face economic instability even by working blue-collar jobs. “Those kinds of pursuits are now encompassing even the lives of people who probably want nothing more than to get paid a decent wage and enjoy their life,” explained O’Neill. “I think that matters, because so much of what you do hear about economic instability — especially among younger people — centers around glamorous industries in a way that I think is engineered to make them seem foolish; as if they’re getting what they deserve for pursuing these industries.

“It may be true that your aspiring Twitch streamer falls into that category, but so does the person who delivers your food, washes your clothes and drives you around. They don’t want to be ‘heroes’ necessarily — they just have nothing else to take a shot at, either.”

Cover Photo: Will O’Neill 

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