Elon Musk, patron saint of mansplainers everywhere, now has another achievement he can unabashedly lay claims to. His futile antics during the midst of Thai cave rescue operations—in which he delivered an unwieldy mini submarine to rescue the marooned Thai football team with—has inspired a tabletop game called Elon Musk’s iPod Submarine, courtesy of Tin Star Games.
As billionaire tech-bro geniuses, one of whom is Musk, players must pitch their unwieldy solutions—their answers to the calamities taking place around the world. The twist is that everyone but the unfortunate player who’s Musk knows what the problem is, but like the man the game evokes, Musk doesn’t let a mere obstacle like ignorance that get in his way. As Musk, the player still have to suggest a solution, while defending their invention against the others’ solutions. Meanwhile, everyone else also have to deduce who among the players is Musk, in order to win the match. Yet, if Musk manages to stay unmasked (or un-Musked, hurhur) while guessing what the problem is, he wins the game—and may go on to build and sell his stupendously pointless creation to the masses. Following the avalanche of defensive and self-congratulatory tweets the real Elon Musk has doused himself in upon the rescue operation’s finale, the game feels like a cynical reflection of his inane submarine invention.
By encouraging players to justify their snappy pitches, Elon Musk’s iPod Submarine encapsulates the ridiculous leaps of logic by tech entrepreneurs, as they persist in their misguided attempts to conjure up solutions for a litany of problems. In the game, problems as catastrophic as world hunger is treated with as much frivolity as my inability to wake up at a horrifying hour for work—and that’s a familiar criticism levelled against Silicon Valley. Its hubris and immaturity become obvious as entrepreneurs try to justify their inventions, but inadvertently steers their faux-innovative businesses headfirst into a colossal mess. We have Mark Zuckerberg espousing his belief that claims of holocaust denial is permissible on Facebook because it may be unintentional; the startup that boldly called themselves “Bodega”—a reference to mom-and-pop shops operated by people of color—appropriates Latin American culture while disrupting and replacing these very stores with their own brand of supposedly groundbreaking vending machines; and entrepreneurs hopping on the “co-living” trend as a new means of accommodation for millennials, while neglecting that the concept of roommates already exist for eons.
Thankfully, unlike the clutter of Silicon Valley’s milieu, Elon Musk’s iPod Submarine is at least an uproarious mess, based on the joys of social deduction and improvisation, rather than any actual display of cockiness and insensitivity. The tightrope of trying to divulge more details without being precise keeps the game interesting, but what makes its social commentary so astute is how in tune this game system is with its storytelling. Like Spyfall, the party game it was probably inspired by, the mechanics of Elon Musk’s iPod Submarine may raise questions like, “Why does Elon Musk have to disguise his identity in this game? He’s usually so blatant about stamping his brand on everything.” The obvious answer, of course, is that in this alternate universe, everyone knows that Musk is a nitwit. Even himself. In our world, there are probably folks clamouring to buy his mini submarine already.