I Spent Jeff Bezos’ Money and All I Got Was this Lousy Sense of Despair

We missed the boat on Kris Ligman’s You Are Jeff Bezos because this website didn’t exist when it was released (full disclosure: Kris is an ex-colleague of ours and we miss them every day). They made this Twine game recently and it caught my eye, not via personal Twitter accounts or excited Facebook messages, but from mainstream news outlets like VICE.

Wowie!

After a full day of playing Rockstar’s latest opus and contemplating the labor abuses responsible for a game of that scale, I decided to unwind with a new playthrough of Super Mario Odyssey. After searching two kingdoms for as much gold as I could hoard, I remembered two things:

  1. I hadn’t played Kris’ game yet.
  2. I hadn’t looked up if my normal polling place is open on Tuesday.

So I tackled the first thing first, as one typically does, and found a familiar Twine interface with an unfamiliar dollar amount floating to the left.

$156,000,000,000

I had read some of the many pieces on You Are Jeff Bezos. Reactions ranged from insightful commentary, to surprise that games could even do political parodyto eyerolls from certain folks. I knew how I’d feel about it already. Although I wasn’t quite prepared to see the staggering amount of things one could do with Jeff Bezos’ current cash value.

Fixing Flint, Michigan’s water crisis is pocket lint. Funding NASA is a cake walk. Repairing Puerto Rico puts a big dent in Jeff’s net worth, but it’s all relative. He’d still have $17 billion left. Billion with a “B.”

I chose to pay his personal taxes first, to the tune of nearly $58 billion. That was only fair. I’m not always happy about where my taxes go, but I can definitely tell you I paid more in the past few years than Facebook did. That doesn’t seem right, does it?

Anyway, ending homelessness cost a measly $20 billion. That number is an oversimplification, of course. So is the entire game. It says as much at the beginning. It’s not a true-to-life simulation of our nightmare world, where a single man can make “more than nine times an American’s average annual salary” on the toilet. It just puts things into perspective.

At least that’s what You Are Jeff Bezos did for me. It brought up numbers that I constantly questioned, yet quickly verified with cursory Google searches and article scanning. It hurts—physically hurts—knowing how many lives could be saved or improved with one man’s net worth.

Despite that discomfort, I enjoyed Ligman’s game. It’s funny and honest. It speaks truths we ought to express more plainly and openly. It made me contemplate my own thoughtlessness and my own spending. Although that kind of personal punishment is beside the point.

Bezos’ worth could hire 700,000 teachers for four years. It’s absurd and arrogant to think average people can solve the world’s problems just by donating a bit more to charity.

I recommend the experience. It’s quick. My 10-minute playthrough showed off plenty of Ligman’s barbed commentary. I recommend it to Amazon fans, too. Maybe you have stacks of delivery boxes in your apartment, like I do. Maybe you’re also like me and will start thinking about life after Amazon.

Oh! And after I finished You Are Jeff Bezos, I confirmed my polling place is open at 7 a.m. on Tuesday. Is yours?

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John Warren

I miss Texas sometimes. Wheelchair person. Professional wrestling is humanity's greatest achievement. He/his, y'all.

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