Four Minute Warning is a small (very small) two screen videogame that tasks the player with collecting a few objects to take with them into a fallout shelter, all within the 4 minutes from the warning siren going off to the nuclear missiles hitting.
What sounds like a fairly simple task is made all the more difficult by having the play areas be rather fiddly and unforgiving mazes of clutter. But also, that’s sort of the point. The game expects the player to fail, this is the onset of nuclear armageddon after all. And, indeed, if the player doesn’t fail at their task then eventually, radiation gets to them anyway.
Whatever happens, that’s it. Over. Bummer, huh?
It’s a pro peace, anti nuclear war, anti Tory and anti Reagan vignette. It is unsubtle in every possible way and it’s a game that wants to remind the player that voting for warmongering rightwing hawks probably isn’t the best idea ever.
Part of what I find fascinating about it is it’s the sort of game that would have sat perfectly at home in the indie flash/art game period of a decade and a bit back, except it was made and released in 1985. It’s almost uncanny how well it would fit in the latter half of the 2000’s if you just swapped a few names round here and there and maybe had a black – rather than white – background.
Admittedly, these days nuclear war seems a bit further down the list of worries of where our more immediate existential threats are going to come from but still, I think “don’t vote tory” is as relevant a message as it ever was.