Prison Architect: Social Conditioning Of Capitalistic Greed Within The Prison Industrial Complex
By Gwendolyn L. Spelvin
Prison Architect is more than just a send up to the Arnold Schwarzenegger/Sylvester Stallone film Escape Plan. It is an archetype of positive re-enforcement propaganda rhetoric that is detrimental to any free and just society. The central thematic concern that reeks within its premise promotes the casual acceptance of incarceration as a profitable good business at the expense of the civilians caught within its walls.
And yes, this type of fear mongering and exploitation against the incarcerated should be outlawed.
Disturbingly enough, Prison Architect plays like Sim Tower, but willingly indulges the player into both sides of contemporary for profit prison structures. Such a social experiment is shrugged off during play as a necessary evil as you wait for a profit from the real estate investment. However, this type of blatant behavior modification parallels real life antics of the for profit prison industrial complex that has ruined the lives of many citizens.
Playing Prison Architect is engaging in a similar form of behavior modification that are designed to put people in situations and wait for psychological and emotional reactions. Such evil recourse is better known by the term slavery, but is more palatable by another name which separates the average mind from associating how wrong the premise is to begin with.
Some may not find this entry into the simulation genre a big deal, but they should. Simulation titles are training games that are designed to subconsciously embed learned behavior and patterns into those that engage them. Prison Architect is no exception to this rule; it plays its role well putting people’s lives over profit margins every time.
From the very beginning, the central thematic concern throws players into the prison industrial complex world. Playing as an unnamed protagonist, the construction and functionality of a new profitable private prison enterprise falls exclusively on your shoulders.
Even deeper is the success ratio within Prison Architect; the sole purpose of business is to sell the constructed prison for an inflated sum far beyond the initial building costs, grants, and loans that were thrown into it. Once it has been sold, the financial compensation from the selling transaction divests into a new building that is started from scratch. Wash, rinse, and repeat.
The main idea that everyone and everything has a price is constantly a reoccurring theme.
Almost immediately, workers are pitted against prisoners; decisions such as basic humane conditions toward prisoners are at player discretion, as the almighty dollar is the bottom line on their maintenance and upkeep. Employees are generally treated as chattel and genuinely exploited; more often than not workers tend to be understaffed and exhausted without the benefits of a break room, lunch, or adequate supplies to maintain their workstations.
Prison Architect’s profit prison creation is not without its problems; a systemic system of oppression is built into the title to deal with revolting workers and prisoners, crumbling or incomplete infrastructure, and security. Riots do occur but tend to be more conquering over inmates like the Stanford Prison Experiment than positive outcomes.
Overall, the obvious civil rights and labor law infringements are the most disturbing course of action forced upon players. The biggest violation within mission objectives is the preferentially bias treatment that pits inmates versus each other as well as employees.
Case in point; players can create snitches out of inmates through a perk reward system. This could include, but is not limited to, bigger cells, access to off location areas, and television in private cells. Lockdowns, restrictions on daily schedules, denials of civil liberties and other privileges of prisoners such as food intake are rampant with little penalty outside of an occasional riot.
In a country like America, where the history of the Prison Industrial Complex stretches its roots into the post-slavery era of Reconstruction for the sole purpose of re-enslaving black people and other immigrant ethnic groups, Prison Architect is deplorable to continue feeding the public propaganda that rationalized incarceration as the cultural norm.
A casualty of such sentiments is that impressionable minds are taught cruelty is a small price to pay to make a sacrificial buck if the price is right. More importantly, it is a slap in the face to all citizenry in a country where potential prisoners are already targeted by race for certain crimes and charges, and thrusted into a corrupt court system that is paid off of their misery.
After all, being manipulated into being chattel for underpaid labor jobs that the civilian population should be doing and being paid a prevailing wage for should not be a fiscal accomplishment when it promotes destabilizing the economy, feudalist robber baron style.
Sometimes an idea should stay an idea; just because a game developer can develop something to the likes of Prison Architect doesn’t mean they should. Being a part of the problem doesn’t guarantee a plausible solution when the main idea floats greed. Prison Architect glorifies and exploits treatment of individuals into a prison supremacy system who had the misfortune of being thrown into such a system, and promotes a vast array of social conditioning across the board.