Side Note

This game perfectly captures the agony of riding the NYC subway

Those of you who live in New York City probably already know that taking the subway has become a special kind of crowded, non-air-conditioned, delay-ridden hell. A new game called MTA Country simulates that experience, in case you want to remember what it’s like to be packed on a crowded F train while you’re bored at work — or, you know, while you’re stuck on a crowded F train.

Created by Everyday Arcade, who also built The Outline’s Musklander game, MTA Country turns you into a subway conductor. You’re responsible for getting three people — the everyman commuter, Gregg T., and his buddies Bill and Andrew — to their destination. Bill is, obviously, a stand-in for NYC mayor Bill de Blasio; Andrew is clearly de Blasio’s nemesis Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose administration controls the MTA. (The game originally had Andrew as Mario, which I interpreted as a joke about how the younger Cuomo is only governor because of his daddy. It was just an honest mistake, though.)

On the way, you have to dodge track fires, pizza rats, and stalled trains — just like in real life, where the MTA keeps getting worse. According to a 2017 report by the Independent Budget Office, the agency is years behind on much-needed signal repairs, but that hasn’t stopped Cuomo from trying to cut its budget and spending money on high-tech buses with Wi-Fi and USB charging ports, which makes the game all the more ironic.

As you progress through the game, you collect subway tokens and letters, which eventually spell out a word: PRIVATIZE. Players win when they collect all the letters and unlock something called the “hyperloop,” which would appear to foreshadow a dark future where where only our tech overlords can save the subway system. To be honest, that doesn’t sound like winning to me. But anyway, happy commuting.

Stand clear of the closing doors, please.