Early in the morning on one fateful day in Córdoba, Argentina, three men armed with a single 9mm pistol broke into a quiet home in the city's Cerro Norte neighborhood. They attacked the couple sleeping inside and stole 3,600 pesos before attempting to flee.
Unfortunately for them, the 49-year-old metalworker who lived there wasn't going to let them get away. He grabbed a katana from its decorative place on the wall and cut and stabbed the assailants as they fled, leaving a trail of blood to the getaway car, which they ended up crashing into a tree farther down the road. Five people were eventually arrested, getaway drivers included, and the man who defended his home became a local legend.
It's a wild story that feels like a scene from a movie — a wild story that got turned into an incredibly popular little game.
"We made a parody of that and called it Keku-liao: Samurai cordobé," Nahuel Moco, one of the founders and the in-house programmer for Shi**y Games, a three-man development team, tells SYFY WIRE. "We published this little thing where you fight robbers with a katana, like Fruit Ninja, and our server immediately went down due to how many people visited."
Keku-liao: Samurai cordobé is one of the many creations of Shi**y Games, a group made up of one programmer and two designers from Buenos Aires, Argentina, who thrive off making games that comment on newsworthy events mere days after they happen. The team, whose real names remain hidden due to how their work criticizes powerful figures in Argentina, classifies its work as part of a punk and subversive genre.
"We want to make fun of all kinds of things, from tragic people to events, and add in our own political message to the mix," Moco says. "We also just have fun doing this and making fun of people, politics, and everyone really — even ourselves."
The name Shi**y Games literally refers to the technical quality of the games they produce. The team prioritizes the message they put out over the quality of gameplay of each title. "The gameplay is, often times, unplayable with a lot of bugs because we have our games done days after news breaks," Moco says. "Many local game developers hate us because we make shi**y games in hours that have thousands of downloads. But they're funny and they have a message and that's all we need."
Shi**y Games started out as a joke between Moco and a classmate from the National University of La Plata; they wanted to make fun of the student government and all the students running for office by making a game.
"It was an infinite runner where you have to jump over students who wanted you to vote for them," Moco says. "At university, nearly everyone is running for positions and always blocking you with flyers — it's almost impossible to get to your classes without running into them."
That game never got to see the light of day simply because they never got around to finishing it. The group worked on a number of other titles — including one where you play as a piece of poop who jumps from toilet paper square to toilet paper square, trying not to fall into the toilet — before really hitting their groove.
In mid-2014, groups of auto workers were protesting their dismissal from work by slowing down traffic during peak hours by driving slowly, something that's difficult for Argentinian authorities to prevent. While trying to stop one driver, an officer threw himself on the windshield of a car and pretended he had been rammed, something a video of the incident clearly shows. The other soldiers then forced the driver out of the car, beat, and handcuffed him.
"It was very brutal, especially since you can see the guy faking," Moco says. "We made a game called Gendarmer, which is kind of like Frogger where you have to throw military men in front of cars to fake an accident and then soldiers come and beat the driver up."
Gendarmer is one of Shi**y Games' earliest examples of parodying authoritative figures in Argentina, this time the subject of ridicule being the security forces. Games like these have helped Shi**y Games grow quite the following, accumulating more than 14,000 likes on Facebook and garnering local news coverage on several occasions.
"They manage to make short games out of everyday topics," Alejandro Pro, Editor of the Buenos Aires-based video game news site Press Over, says. "News of their games gets picked up by local media outlets, which spreads their message even further. It's a pretty novel way of telling stories."
"The format is important because it makes that particular story interactive, and yet they're simple enough that anyone playing them can be a part of them," Pro adds. "Almost like a meme that gets forwarded. Except this one leaves you thinking."
Moco agrees that many of his games are like memes, spreading through the online community in Buenos Aires. But he made it clear that their games aren't always funny; a few have been on the darker side. One of the most notable ones was Suicid.ar, in which you play as the Argentinian prosecutor Alberto Nisman moments before his death.
Nisman was a prosecutor who worked as the chief investigator on the worst terrorist attack in Argentina's history, the 1994 car bombing of a Jewish center that killed 85 people in Buenos Aires. Nisman was found dead in his home on January 18th, 2015, a day before he was scheduled to present his findings. He was believed to have incriminating evidence against officials of the previous government. It's unclear whether Nisman's death was a suicide or a murder.
"Different news sites were saying he committed suicide while others were saying he was murdered," Moco says. "Everyone was lying, so we made a game where you can explore three points of view of his death."
Suicide.ar puts the players in Nisman's shoes as covered by two different local news channels and CNN. Each playthrough offers a different experience before Nisman dies. The official state media version has you playing as Nisman as you try to remove items that could be linked to a suicide, but no matter what you do, someone else comes in and kills you in the end. The opposition-run media version has you playing as Nisman's killer, with you entering the home and murdering him. The CNN version has you playing as an Islamic terrorist, killing Nisman as you shout, "Allahu Akbar."
"This was a very dark game. We wanted to make fun, but we ended up making it obscure," Moco says. "It's interesting since when we released our first games all the media shared it and wrote about it. No one shared this game since it mocked the media — it made fun of them."
Moco says that Suicid.ar is the best and most controversial game he has made, highlighting one of the biggest scandals he's seen in Argentina. He wanted to show how backward the media's coverage of the incident was and how backward they can be in general.
"You could also make a point that Shi**y Games is a bit like Black Mirror," Pro says. "They're holding the shattered glass up to our faces and yelling 'You! This is what you are!' Except all you see is... well, shit."
Shi**y Games started out as a joke and, in many ways, still is one. The trio parodies both sides of what it sees, similar to how South Park makes fun of whatever is popular in U.S. culture. The difference is that sometimes Shi**y Games gets serious, facing down authority figures by trying to get their players to think about what's going on around them.
Moco knows that there is plenty of more work to do.
"We don't know what is next because we don't know the news, we don't know what's going to happen," Moco says. "We are making games that are more extensive. We don't know what's gonna happen tomorrow, but we are always expecting something."