The Darkest Dungeon Of No Pineapple Left Behind

I’m extremely intrigued bySubaltern’s magic school management game No Pineapple Left Behind [official site]. The more I look, the more it seems like its superficially wwwwwacky and zzzzzany concept of ‘what if you could turn kids into pineapples to make them easier students?’ is there to guide people into what might be both a biting and deep management game about the education system. There is fantasy, there are spells and there is the tyrannical oppression of a rebellious population, but it all relates to the minds and identities of children – are we looking at Dungeon Keeper with actual satire?

You know I love Dungeon Keeper, but ‘haha nice people are dumb’ wasn’t exactly a voyage into the heart of darkness. Roleplaying as a school principal who can choose to stamp out pupils’ individuality in pursuit of the almighty dollar just might be. For example, here’s a look at how spells, such a mainstay of any fantasy game and used so guiltlessly on DK monsters, work in No Pineapple Left Behind:

Essentially, a spell is a lesson plan interpreted as instant magic. Cast one at the start of a class to educate your students, but your teacher needs enough energy to get away with it, otherwise the spell might backfire and have negative effects on your class. So a demoralised teacher might cast Televisor – sitting their students in front of the gogglebox for the duration of a lesson, with minimal risk of anyone over-exerting themselves.

What sounds breezy on the surface is pretty damned dark with any analysis. I’m looking forwards to/dreading trying this. While an open alpha of No Pineapple Left Behind is expected later this year, at a wild guess the full version will be out around a year before I send my currently two-year-old daughter to school, so I can then get myself into a right old state about that.


  1. MrFinnishDude says:

    So there will be a tactic about hiring people and then sacking them when they get tired just like in Darkest Dungeon? Imagine kids being introduced to a new teacher every day, and at the end of the day the teacher will always be a nervous shout-y wreck, and they never see him again.
    I think I have a new idea for the education committee. PISA scores will be trough the roof!

    • subalterngames says:

      Yes, there will be.

    • pepperfez says:

      US administrators are better at thinking like demonic overlords than you’ll ever be: We call that program “Teach for America.”

    • teije says:

      You have just described one of the best weeks our grade 7 class ever had after our regular teacher went on sabbatical.

  2. kwyjibo says:

    My problem with this game is that it seems so overtly preachy. Will I be rewarded for cranking out engineers like an Asian tiger? Doubt it.

    • Rizlar says:

      Doesn’t seem that way at all to me. Sure, it’s very politically charged, but it seems that what you are working with is a system, what you do with that system is up to you. If there seems to be a motivation to crank out high-achieving students at the cost of completely ignoring low-achieving students, that’s just how the system works. Preachy would be if there was a particular, pre-considered way to teach that was better than all the rest, it seems that No Pineapple Left Behind is much more interested in modelling the difficulties involved and letting players decide what to do with it.

      In fact, I’d be more concerned that the message wouldn’t get through to the player. In games like this it seems that players may just assume one method and not really experiment beyond it, it will need to force players out of their comfort zones a bit to get them interacting with all the unsavoury options.

      • Bernardo says:

        I’ve talked about this with students in a course on modelling historical processes in games. Many of them found one way of “winning” the game and then got bored. I.e., in “Banished”, one guy quickly found out that the gatherer’s hut is unbalanced and produces too much food, so that you can easily produce enough food by just placing a lot of gatherers in forests. When I tell them they shouldn’t try to win the game, but introduce certain scenarios and see how the game reacts, they are surprised. So because they found the one method of winning, they don’t care for all the other ways or the ways of losing the game. I don’t know, however, how a game can force you out of that comfort zone.

        • Dilapinated says:

          Ohmannn I just want to pin this comment on my wall. It says so much about gameplay and how much gets lost out in pure-optimisation paths.

    • grimdanfango says:

      I reckon the best way they could get the message across would be if they design it in such a way that you as a player end up feeling worryingly complicit in the subjucation of the students, simply because it’s the most effective way to run things from a management point of view – it being a management game.

      If they can hit a similar note to Papers Please, it’ll be really interesting. Preachy doesn’t achieve much, but when it comes to games, they have access to the much more effective approach of goading the player themselves into dehumanising the ingame people, and then holding a mirror up to show them what they’ve become :-)

    • KevinLew says:

      Wow, this is what you call a preachy game? It’s not like when you fire a teacher, a pop-up dialog box says, “That person was trying to pay for his wife’s heart operation. I guess that he can’t afford it now.” Or every time you use the Televisor, it says, “Pineapples may not be able to read, but at least your teachers will get a paycheck.”

    • Jhoosier says:

      “Cranking out engineers” sounds exactly like what NPLB is all about — one standardized product to shoehorn your kid into.

    • Chrysomore says:

      Because simulating common systemic breakdowns based on economics and human nature is SO political.