Red & Black Gamers

22nd June 2022

Is Scotty Goes to Centrelink a scary game? I guess that depends on who you ask. Is the game as scary as Australia’s 30th prime minister Scott Morrison? Not even close, unless you’re not afraid of actual clowns.

In this uniquely surreal horror title, created via Unity Engine by Colestia, a radical indie developer, you take control of Scott Morrison, prime minister of the land down under. In this red fog-tinted, hellish late-stage capitalist society that his welfare economic policies ushered in, the titular Scotty finds himself unemployed and desperately seeking financial support. This leads him to none other than Centrelink, a service department in the Australian government that helps financially-burdened citizens receive income. However, the lady at the front desk is not just going to hand you money. That’s when the player is given their objective.

The player is instructed to deliver 20 CVs (job applications/resumes) into “submission boxes,” which are appropriately trashcans, scattered throughout a nearly deserted city, the only inhabitants being Scotty, the Centrelink desk clerk, and a giant floating Scott Morrison head. I’m not kidding. As you deliver (or rather throw out) the CVs, you are chased by the floating head—as you get close to your goal, the heads multiply—all while being told, “Get off welfare, get into work!” There aren’t many things in this world that come close to being as scary as going down a narrow alley and a giant disembodied Scott Morrison head catches you off guard; quite the startle if you’re not expecting it. Speaking of which, if the head touches you, it’s instant death. Your body is humorously flung like a ragdoll and you respawn at Centrelink. Thankfully, the game is courteous enough to not erase your progress. If only Australia’s welfare capitalism was that forgiving. More on that later.

By the way, this is a browser game. You use WASD to move, space to jump and hold shift to run, which makes outrunning the floating heads much easier. To be honest, it would seem that those with the least favorable opinions of PM Morrison may very well allow him to get killed by the floating heads on purpose, even at the cost of a game-over. A wet dream come true for the ungovernable. It may not be a guillotine, but in any revolution, one must make do with what they have.

After you deliver the CVs, talk to the Centrelink desk clerk again. She’ll tell you that you were late on your deliveries and must deliver another round of CVs before you receive payment. At this moment, Scotty wakes up on a tropical island, revealing the game to have been a nightmare. As a former TV/film student, I would normally pan this ending as anti-climactic or even a copout, as all fictional storylines that end with “waking up” are, but it’s interesting to note that Scotty finds solace in saying to himself, “Good thing that Centrelink isn’t for people like me!” That being the bourgeoisie. In fact, as the credits role, several Scotty clones can be seen partaking in various activities like golfing, running around, etc., minding their own business in paradise, while back in reality, working-class people get the shit-end of the stick.

The situation with the real-life Centrelink can be partially summed up by Colestia himself at the end of the credits: “In case it wasn’t obvious, Centrelink sucks – and I’d much prefer to stay off it.” But Colestia’s assertion is only scratching the surface. While welfare is seen by many as an easy way for people to make money without having to hardly do anything, the sad reality is that in some countries, there are too many channels to count to go through before getting paid. The idea that welfare recipients are “lazy” is an age-old classist myth, seeing as though many of them actively seek employment, often with little luck. Once you come to understand this, “Get off welfare, get into work!” feels like a cruel tease.

According to testimonies by Australian citizens, Centrelink can be extremely stingy with extending financial support to those who need it. Jobactive, another government program that connects jobseekers to employment networks, will often default to telling people to go to Centrelink. If they’re denied at Centrelink, their desperate search for work may bring them back to Jobactive, who then tells them to go to Centrelink once more, and the sadistic cycle continues.

Based on a report by the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), “Increasing numbers of companies are Outsourcing to other countries, such as customer support, back-end job support, IT outsourcing, and engineering services for their Australia operation.” So far in 2022, over 30,000 Australian jobs have been outsourced, with more projected to be by year’s end. At some turning point in history, corporations discovered they can exploit even more workers for cheaper in a different country, leaving many of their domestic workers at the mercy of broken welfare programs like Centrelink.

It's worth reminding people that welfare capitalism and/or social democracy is capitalism all the same. Exploiters gonna exploit.

In conclusion, if you’re saving up for a different game and don’t feel like spending money, not to worry because Scotty Goes to Centrelink is free. Now, it’s certainly no RuneScape, the titan of browser gaming, but it’s special in its own right. It’s poignant political satire with graphics reminiscent of late 90s-early 2000s survival horror titles like Silent Hill, and will take you no more than 10 minutes to complete. (Note: If you want another go, you have to refresh the whole page.) Overall, I give Scotty Goes to Centrelink a 6.5/10.

Vincent Parsons

You can play Scotty Goes to Centrelink by clicking on the link.

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