Pipe Trouble is a high-profile mobile game that takes a clever spin on an arcade classic and uses over-the-top satire to prompt mainstream discussion for ongoing real-world issues surrounding the exploitation of natural gas. Tasked with building a natural gas pipeline, players must balance the financial demands of making money against the impact on the local environment. Pipe Trouble was designed to engage a new audience in the ongoing energy debate and build awareness for the TVO commissioned documentary film Trouble in the Peace.
On the right, you have a gas company rep keeping track of your dollar score and continually pushing you to create the most direct economical route; every piece of pipe costs money and every second counts. On the left you've got a local farmer gauging your impact on the area and community: lay your pipe too close to the pastures and risk springing a leak that kills livestock and makes people sick; build through forest or near water supplies and you'll incite protesters that you'll have to build around; suffer a leak or raise local indignation too far and risk potential pipe sabotage that could bankrupt your operation.
Pipe Trouble caused a national media stir and landed in a firestorm of controversy started by inaccurate reports that the game allows players to blow up pipelines and advocates eco-terrorism. The controversy spread nationally and into highest levels of Canadian government, pressuring public broadcaster TVO to pull the game and launch an independent review. This controversy was dispelled through an outpour of support from the gaming community as well as prominent corrective coverage on CBC Radio’s The Current, CBC Television’s Lang and O’Leary Exchange, Global Television’s Morning Show, the Financial Post, the Edmonton Journal, Vice Magazine, The Huffington Post, Canada.com, BoingBoing, Gamasutra and many others.
Findings of the overwhelmingly positive independent review were publicly announced 3 months later, summarizing “Pipe Trouble does not support, glamourize or advocate violence in any way… Pipe Trouble is not a game about blowing up pipelines. It is a game about building pipelines. To succeed, players must pit their spatial ability and speed against economics, regulations, efficiency, the environment and yes, sabotage. The game is designed to make you think, and it does.”
Pipe Trouble has been featured at South-by-Southwest (SXSW) in Texas, the Hot Docs Documentary Festival in Toronto, the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco, the Games for Change Conference in New York, and the prestigious Cannes Film Festival’s inaugural new media showcase in France. It is an original Pop Sandbox Production, produced in collaboration with Six Island Productions with the support of the Ontario Media Development Corporation and the Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund. It was developed with the support of the Documentary Organization of Canada’s Toronto Chapter.