TORONTO — Ontario taxpayer dollars have flowed to a video game app — available on publicly funded TVOntario — that features a natural gas line that can leak, make people ill or be sabotaged.
Pipe Trouble asks players building a gas pipeline to balance the interests of a “gas company rep” who demands the most economical route versus that of a “volatile farmer” who looks at the environmental impact on the local community.
Go too fast or lay too much pipe and the game will blow up the project.
TVOntario spent $10,000 on the app and $80,000 on the accompanying documentary, Trouble in the Peace, and funding was also obtained from the Ontario Media Development Corporation and private companies.
The game — available at pipetrouble.com — is for sale and part of the proceeds go to the David Suzuki Foundation at the request of the creators.
The intent is also to make the game available as an old-style arcade game at universities, galleries, tourist attractions and in urban centres.
The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA) issued a statement in response saying it “is disappointed that TVOntario has supported the development of a game that is clearly one-sided.”
Education Minister Liz Sandals said TVO’s role is to present different points of view and generate discussion and debate.
“In this particular case, I recognize that there have been some concerns raised regarding elements of the online game,” Sandals said. “The government, along with TVO, does not condone illegal activity. That is why we have asked TVO to ensure that this online game adheres to their existing programming standards and does not condone such activity.”
TVO vice-president Jill Javet said the game does not allow the player to blow up the pipeline and does not promote violence.
Tory MPP Vic Fedeli said he’s concerned about the use of public dollars on this project.
“I thought that was an incredibly inappropriate use of taxpayers dollars to first of all have that type of a website and, secondly, to link it to donations to NGOs that receive other government funding,” he said.
Alex Jansen, of game app creator Pop Sandbox Productions, said it was the company’s decision to donate a portion of the funds to the Suzuki Foundation.
Premier Kathleen Wynne said she expects to be discussing pipeline issues when Ontario hosts the country’s premiers this summer at a Council of the Federation meeting.