A video game for the age of the grifter

What is it about con artists that makes them so irresistible? Stories about things like the Fyre Festival implosion, or Anna Delvey’s upper-crust grift capture the imagination in their their audacity. These tales of greed also obscure a more universal truth: scammers are some of the world’s best anti-heroes.

As a society, “we get fascinated with a thief, with the idea of outsmarting someone,” says Dave Proctor, game director for the upcoming video game The Big Con. In it, players will take on the role of a teenage hustler who is trying her best to save her family from loan sharks. One problem: She’s got no money. Enter the con. You’re going to need to wear disguises, sneak around, pickpocket, and rip people off, all in the name of making it through another day.

The Big Con, which was announced last week, is a coming-of-age comedy where players must solve puzzles and pull fast ones on other characters. It’s being developed by Mighty Yell, which is comprised of developers like Jill Murray, who has worked on triple-A games like Tomb Raider, and Saffron Aurora, who is responsible for the game’s unique art direction.

“I’m a fan of stories like Frank Abagnale, or Helga De La Brache, people who hustled to weave a line through life,” Proctor said. “To survive and live, praying on the rich and moving on.”

Proctor recognizes that there’s a moral gray area here, largely stemming from the fact that not all scams are inherently malicious.

“Now what they did is still lying and theft, but it’s… different,” Proctor explained. “There’s a difference between Matchstick Men and The Big Short. I prefer the former. Smaller stories with characters just making choices to live.”

Here, Proctor sees a good avenue for juicy character development.

“Sometimes we aren’t perfect and we make decisions to protect ourselves or save our little family video store,” he said.

Judging by the research Proctor has explored for The Big Con, it’s likely that we’re going undertake all sorts of hilarious and ingenious scams.

“I love studying and reading about old con tricks,” Proctor said. “Like salting (sprinkling gold ore on a property and saying it’s worth a lot) or melon drops (I carry a watermelon and bump into you and drop it and now you owe me for the watermelon) and all the variations of those.

“In the face of something like Fyre Festival it almost seems artisanal. Almost wholesome. Because it’s about conversation and relationships and not just money.”

You can wishlist The Big Con on Steam here. While no specifics have been shared, the game is also set to release on consoles as well.

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