SPLINTER and the IGDN Bundle of Holding

Hey everyone! It’s Mik again, with some ramblings and some cool news.

I know everyone’s been pretty excited about Psionics, which is still set for release this summer. But I wanted to take a brief moment to talk about our first release, SPLINTER.

Recently, we’ve become involved with the Indie Game Developers Network. A while back, the network began talking about doing a Bundle of Holding that would include some of the games by some of the IGDN members; some of the money would go to the designers, and some of it would go to an awesome charity. Well, after some behind-the-scenes work, that bundle has now come to fruition. And SPLINTER is a part of it!

As of this writing, the bundle has made nearly $6,000.00, which is awesome. Also, we’d like to give a shout out to “A Vryx Avatar.” We don’t know who you are, but we saw what you did there :D.

Now, I want to mention that the End Transmission team didn’t actually take part in choosing the charity for this bundle, but we were very happy to see that the chosen recipient of the charity money will be the Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project. I’ll let you explain what they do in their own words:

Shanti Bhavan’s mission is to adequately develop the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children of India’s “lowest caste” by providing them world class education and instilling globally shared values to enable them to aspire to careers and professions of their choice.

We provide a holistic, high quality focused education to children on a beautiful boarding school campus. For these communities, Shanti Bhavan is a beacon of hope that shines a path of opportunity for their children. It is an oasis built within the confines of crushing poverty supported by a devoted administration and global network of volunteers. Our children see that a better world isn’t just an idea but a real possibility.

The reason I wanted to mention that we didn’t have a hand in choosing this charity because of the weird synchronicity it has with the themes of SPLINTER. For those of you who have already played it, this will probably be old information – but for those who haven’t picked up a copy yet, I’m going to explain what I mean.

To start out, it’s important to mention that SPLINTER is inspired by, among other things, the fantastic “Acts of Caine” series by Matthew Woodring Stover. (If you haven’t read it yet, go do so now. Seriously. It’s right here.)

In SPLINTER, you engage with two separate worlds. One is the titular Splinter, an endlessly-changing and infinite “dungeon”, which is where most of the gameplay takes place. The other world is Earth – the Earth of 2471.

In this Earth, culture has been homogenized and taken over by a single monolithic company. This company controls life and society, largely because it controls The Game. The Game is all that matters – those who do not play, watch. Those who do not watch, well, there are consequences for not watching. Namely, being arrested. After which, it’s likely that you will be forced to play The Game anyway.

It is because of this system that the society of 2471’s Earth has been divided into castes. If you’re born into a high caste, great – the world is at your fingertips. You can pretty much live a life of leisure as an investor, or be a controlling party in the world around you. If you’re born into a low caste, well… it’s technically possible to rise into a higher caste, but usually, again, this can only be accomplished by playing (and winning) The Game. This social system isn’t derived from any religious ideology, save for the God that everyone mostly refers to as “money.” All other cultural devices – theology, philosophy – have been systematically done away with.

Our latest release for SPLINTER – the Superstar Profile of Kade Merek – tells the story of Mumbai native Ronald Singh, a man who would do (and did) just about anything to escape his caste. It tells the story of a system that turned a young boy into a hardened man, whose only path to freedom lay in the blood sports of The Game.

Now, it’s easy to talk about these dystopian scenarios as a narrative device, used in fiction to provoke a discourse for real-life socioeconomic issues. It’s also easy for Americans to espouse concern that our western society is spiraling toward a plutocratic model. Being born a 1%-er pretty much means that you’re going to remain a 1%-er; doors open for the rich that are closed to the poor. But it’s also important to look at what’s actually happening elsewhere.

India’s caste system has been traditionally thought to have started with traditional Hindu beliefs in reincarnation. That those born into the lower castes – especially the Untouchables – were born there because of the deeds they had done in previous lives. But modern scholars theorize that the caste system became more rigid, more important, as a result of the British colonial regime, and that the caste system was much more flexible before the time of the British Raj.

Now, independent India has made a lot of reforms in regards to the caste system. While the Indian Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that social caste is hereditary and cannot be changed, the lower castes (historically disadvantaged groups in India) have been ruled as Scheduled Castes, given Reservation status, which guaranteed political representation to these historically disenfranchised castes and tribes. India’s constitution prohibits discrimination based on caste, and has declared the practice of untouchability to be illegal. The affirmative action measures that were implemented in regards to the lower castes have resulted in many lower-caste Indians to be able to rise to political power, such as K. R. Narayanan, a member of the historically untouchable Dalit caste, who was elected to the Presidency of the nation from 1997 to 2002.

There have been a lot of changes for the better in India in regards to the Scheduled Castes, but the lowest castes still suffer the effects of a history of oppression – lower literacy rates, lower vaccination rates, less access to clean drinking water, and higher poverty levels. More to the point, the enrollment and graduation rates for Scheduled Caste children and teenagers are lower than those in the upper caste. It’s important to mention that these gaps are closing, but these inequalities are still present.

Initiatives such as the Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project are a huge part of the progressive changes for India’s Scheduled Castes. Shanti Bhavan gives children born into poverty the chance at a higher-class education and support, opening doors to great opportunities for the future.

In SPLINTER, characters are forced to kill and die for the entertainment of the masses in order to have access to education and comfort. We’re pleased to be able to help those, even in a small way, who work to ensure that a future even remotely similar to SPLINTER’s Earth of 2471 does not come to pass.