Italy’s government has turned to gaming to connect with a whole new audience–a move which, in a sane world, should serve as a blueprint for fellow countries to embrace a ridiculously untapped market.
Today, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs–the republic’s equivalent of the U.S. Department of State–has launched ITALY. Land of Wonders, a free mobile game that aims to showcase Italian culture and heritage to the world, and young people in particular.
Available today on iOS and Android via the Italian MFA’s new portal dedicated to the nation’s impact on worldwide culture, Land of Wonders was designed and developed within the country. Looking at its trailer, the game appears to take influences from Monument Valley, The Witness, and even BioShock minigames, boasting 100 educational puzzle levels and a pretty damn nice art style.
Starting at sunset, Land of Wonders features Elio–a reference to Helios, the mythological sun god–who tasks players to travel around Italy to retrieve 20 sparks to light up a lighthouse and make the sun shine on Italy once again. As the game evolves, players meet five Guardians who help players “discover nature, cuisine, art, performance and design, the five main sectors of the Italian cultural heritage.”
Each of the game’s 100 puzzle levels features a 3D reconstruction of an Italian landmark, including headliners like the Colosseum, St Mark’s Basilica, and Leaning Tower of Pisa. Alongside the cultural and geographic elements of the game–plus 600 articles filled with stories, news and fun facts–the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also focused on making the game improve players’ grasp of the Italian language.
Ambassador Lorenzo Angeloni, director general for cultural and economic promotion and innovation at the MFA, said: “It is our objective to engage people from all over the world and to get them interested in our country and its beauties, creating a sense of familiarity that can guide them, one day, to the actual discovery of our territories and our products. It’s an adventure accessible to everyone to help discover the beauty, the creativity and the taste of Italy.”
It’s difficult to complain about any free, zero-microtransaction game on sheer principle, but this effort by the Italian government should be applauded. The fact that gaming has somehow negotiated all manner of red tape to become a focal piece in Italy’s foreign policy is a real surprise, and the effort couldn’t have come at a better time; the notion of travel and exploration is fraught, and the world feels more politically stand-offish and insular than ever.
While this might be the first true government-sponsored game, this isn’t the first time that a constituted body or institution has entered consumer media. Since 1997, international anti-criminal organization Interpol has recorded six albums, as have The Presidents of the United States of America; the state of Kansas and the city of Boston continue to have incredible success on the world stage; and, of course, the entire continent of Europe recorded ‘The Final Countdown’ in 1986.