‘America 2049′ Brings Political Drama to Facebook Games

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Whether it’s Farmville, Mafia Wars, or any of the hundreds of titles vying for attention in your news feed, social games get a lot of flak for trapping players in repetitive loops of shallow, sometimes compulsive gameplay. You can pull in your friends to help with that barn or take out a made man, but it ultimately doesn’t feed back into anything much like your real life.

Maybe it doesn’t need to, but imagine if it did. Imagine if the United States’ future depended on you, networking with people to preserve freedom. That’s the premise at the core of America 2049, a new game debuting today on the world’s most popular social network. The game comes from human rights organization Breakthrough, which uses social media, pop culture and community mobilization to promote human rights and social justice. Set in a balkanized, alt-reality USA splintered beyond all recognition by fear, bias and paranoia, all the missions will be based on real-world, present-day hot-button issues like sex trafficking, immigration and labor.

(More on TIME.com: “Farmville” Enters the “English Countryside” to Entice Old Players to Return)

Players will be tasked with catching supposed terrorist Ken Asaba, who’s played by Lost‘s Harold Perrineau. He’s not the only Hollywood star attached to the human rights webgame, either. Victor Garber from J.J. Abrams’ Alias plays the agent recruiting players to hunt Asaba, and other roles are played by actress/comedienne Margaret Cho, Anthony Rapp (Rent) and Cherry Jones (24).

In a press release about the game, Perrineau said:

“’America 2049’ entertains and enlightens about the real-world issues of acceptance and tolerance. The project resonated with me because I love the idea of people fighting at all costs for their right to pursue the life they choose without fear of persecution. I hope that through playing ‘America 2049,’ young people in particular will be inspired to help stop institutionalized hatred and intolerance — today.”

America 2049 will unfold over the next 12 weeks, with web-based gameplay that ties into events at important cultural institutions like the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Alabama, the Ellis Island Immigration Museum in New York, and the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

Given that President Obama announced his campaign re-election bid on Facebook today and that it’s also the 43rd anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the timing may be right to click into the world of 2049 and absorb its messages. You might be moved into acting on or learning about an important cause. And that’s okay, because your farm or vendetta can wait.

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