The crack video might be M.I.A., but at least you can play the crack video game. The bizarre scandal surrounding Rob Ford gained an even stronger foothold in pop culture this month with the launch of a video game in which players can act out the sordid misadventures of Toronto’s notorious mayor.
“Stay Mayor,” developed by Toronto-based Extra Extra Games, features a red-faced Ford dodging journalists and scooping up bags of money in an effort to collect enough coin to purchase the alleged cellphone video of him smoking crack. Time is of the essence, though, as the hapless mayor must raise the money before Gawker gets ahold of it through its “Rob Ford Crackstarter” crowd-funding campaign.
Those familiar with the story will recall that Nick Denton’s gossip site launched an Indiegogo campaign in May, hoping to raise $200,000 to purchase the alleged video from a group of drug dealers -- all with the intention of posting it online. The website successfully met its fundraising goal, but the video has since gone missing. Now Gawker is left with $201,255, which it has said it will donate to charity. And just in case you were hoping to relive this exemplary convergence of politics and the press, “Stay Mayor” is free to download to your Android phone.
Here’s a description from the game’s page on Google Play: “Only your twinkle toes can out-maneuver the Blood Thirsty Media to help him collect more than they did in that damn ‘Crackstarter’ campaign. $201,255 to be exact. And hey, everyone needs a little boost now and then, so make sure you collect power up buckets of deep-fried courage for more footballs to throw at life’s problems ... but make sure you avoid those pesky crackpipes!”
According to the developer’s Facebook page, “Stay Mayor” launched June 6, with the most recent update taking place Monday. So far, the game has garnered mostly positive reviews, with 36 out of 62 users giving it five stars. Those who had tried the game appeared to appreciate the colorful, detailed graphics, which include an impressive recreation of the Toronto skyline in the background.
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Not everyone is in love with the app, however. Eleven users gave it only one star, and one went so far as to suggest that the game-makers should be sued. “This is defamation of character to Mayor Rob Ford, but i doubt he would pay any attention to a garbage game like this, and honestly it makes me want to vote for him,” the user wrote.
It’s impossible to say whether the game will attract enough attention to spark action from Ford’s lawyers, but you’d almost have to be smoking crack to see this as something other than satire, which is generally a protected form of speech in Canada, as noted on the site of the law firm Roberts & Stahl, based in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Either way, reactions to the game -- both positive and negative -- might say something about the nature of public scandals and their influence on the court of public opinion. Remarkably, the crack-smoking scandal has had little effect on Ford’s approval rating, which has held steady at around 43 percent since September 2011, according to a Forum Research poll cited this month by the Globe and Mail.
Perhaps that’s why Extra Extra Games believes one of the purposes of “Stay Mayor” is to “numb the pain” for scandal-weary Torontonians. Indeed, the game-makers said it best at the end of their description. “Who are we kidding,” they wrote. “This isn’t funny. The city’s management is in shambles and Toronto is a hyper polarized electorate with no hope for change in the next 18 months.”
Download the “Stay Mayor” app here.