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Video Game / Cart Life

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Cart Life is a self-described "retail simulation" game, developed by Richard Hofmeier. In it, you, the player, take on the life of one of three small time retail vendors in the city of Georgetown. Throughout the game, you have to sell enough goods to make ends meet and, hopefully, fulfill your character's personal goals. In addition to all the stresses of owning a stall or cart, such as obtaining an up-to-date permit, keeping your supply up, and actually stocking and selling the product through a series of minigames, you have to navigate through the personal troubles and interpersonal awkwardness of the characters, which range from buying food and nursing their personal addictions to bigger challenges, such as settling a divorce hearing.

Throughout the game, you're given a look into the lives of people who are destitute and struggling for a better life. And the matter of whether or not they do get a better life is in your hands.

The characters are as follows:

  • Andrus Podor, a man from Ukraine whose troubled past has fostered his addiction to cigarettes, as well as his strong attachment to his cat, Mr. Glembovski. After several troubled months, he's decided to take over a newspaper stand to start a new life in Georgetown.
  • Melanie Emberley, a woman whose sudden divorce has triggered her financial disaster and an expensive custody battle, along with severe anxiety over her daughter, Laura. Her dream of owning her own coffee shop is all that stands between her and losing her daughter
  • Vinnie, an entrepreneur with a caffeine addiction and a rocky history with Georgetown. His latest in a long line of businesses, a bagel cart, has taken him back to the city yet again.

The creator released the game's download link and full source code for free in 2013, making it a Freeware Game. The official websites have since been abandoned, but it's still relatively easy to find and download.

Cart Life provides examples of:

  • Classical Anti-Hero: All three characters are normal people plagued by physical or emotional addiction. Especially prominent with Andrus, whose depression and night terrors have left him a barely-recovered emotional wreck.
  • Determinator: All three player characters. Life hasn't treated them well, but they keep going anyway.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: It adds to the bleak, cynical view of the game.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: There is no Big Bad, and every character is motivated, to varying degrees, by their own happiness and survival.
  • I Never Told You My Name: Andrus, in his good ending, has a moment like this with George. Andrus can lie and say they were introduced, and be believed, though.
  • In-Universe Game Clock: And one that is always ticking, even while paused.
  • Must Have Caffeine: Vinny becomes significantly more sluggish if he can't get his coffee.
  • Must Have Nicotine Anders stops to cough every few seconds if he goes too long without smoking.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Andrus has a good deal of nightmares about Caroline and his unborn child.
  • Nintendo Hard: The game is exceedingly brutal, due to the many, many factors you need to juggle in order to survive, as well as the fact that time passes extremely quickly in-game.
  • Perpetual Poverty: The other vendors and shopkeepers in Georgetown are about as well off as you are, if not worse, throughout the game.
  • Schrödinger's Player Character: Completely averted. Pick one character, and the other two characters show up as NPCs, complete with their own shops.
  • Slice of Life: Very, very hard lives.
  • Story to Gameplay Ratio: Unusually high, considering the game is a sim. The game places a great deal of focus on your character's life outside of their business, as well as their motivations for becoming an entrepreneur.
  • Welcome to My World: Extra Credits recommended this game as a way to "walk a mile in another's shoes." There is little to deny this claim.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Georgetown could refer to any one of 39 cities in the US alone, as well as a neighborhood in Washington, D.C.