One of the most chilling consequences of last month’s brutal superstorm was how Sandy flooded and shut down huge chunks of New York City’s mass transit system. Entire subway stations were submerged and the tunnels that trains travel through were flooded to an unprecedented degree. Much of the subway system was up and running in about a week, though, thanks to an effort that’s been called almost magical. Pump trains — which cleared water out from underground — were a vital part of the subway recovery, and now a new game puts players in the driver’s seat of one such vehicle.
The mechanics of Pump Train will be familiar to anyone who’s played games like Diner Dash or Flight Control, where you need to manage resources at multiple stations on a gameboard. But the context surrounding this little browser game — made for the LinkedList newsletter — gives it a surprising emotional impact. For me, it reminded me of the crippling impact that Sandy has had on the place where I’ve lived all my life. Pump Train takes a few liberties but still manages to effectively boil down what the tension and stress of trying to bring subways back online must have felt like for the people responsible. Watching the water fill up to critical levels at South Ferry or Delancey Street means more than just a game over here. It means you’re losing part of a city, and I played my damnedest to stop that from happening. Pump Train isn’t a bad case of Too Soon. It works precisely because the storm is so fresh in people’s minds.