Have you ever played a Full Motion Video (FMV) Game? They were popularized in the mid-80’s, and featured pre-recorded video to showcase the action… rather than sprites, 3D models, etc. #WarGames, released March 14th 2018, feels like a modern spin on a FMV Game. From the creators of Her Story, a game I briefly discussed in an article about “Implied Knowledge," #WarGames presents itself as a tale of “Hacktivism” and political intrigue. Overall it feels very much like you’re watching an okay Netflix show play out in front of you, and you’re slightly engaging with the narrative. Today I’ll be talking more about my experiences with #WarGames and it’s unique take on an old formula.
When #WarGames starts, it’s a bit difficult to understand what’s expected from you. You’re pretty immediately presented with different “screens” to view, as characters are chatting with one another. #WarGames does a clever thing where it will incorporate “FaceTime” style videos, with news broadcasts, websites, emails, etc. that all further the narrative in some way. These all run “live” with the story, and there’s really no pausing or hiccups to the story as it moves forward. A little detail that I loved was that whenever you hit the esc key to access the game’s menu, there was an estimate to how much longer the episode was...knowing that the story plays our linearly. The players can zoom in on the screens they find the most interesting as the story unfolds, meaning they could potentially “miss out” on things happening on another screen if they aren’t careful. I think that’s one of the most interesting elements to this game, at the end of the day it really doesn’t “expect” anything from the player. If you did nothing, the story would unfold in it’s own way… without you. Yet supposedly how you choose to look at screens, potentially by length of time or just by being on a certain screen at a specific timestamp, changes the course of the story. It’s definitely rare that you actually understand what “decision” you’re making in the game… there’s probably only one instances that I felt like I was consciously making a decision. In fact there were a few times I didn’t agree with the decisions the protagonist was making. To that end it’s best to play this game pretty passively and just observe the story in whatever way feels right.
While I just argued that you should play this game “passively,” my main critique of this game would be that I never felt like an active participant in the story. Like Orwell, it was a bit too much of a voyeur experience for me. Instead of modifying the protagonist’s actions, via the screens I watch the most, I felt like I should almost be the one hacking the people I was watching. It would have potentially have been a more drawing narrative if the player/user was an active character and participant into the story. Instead it was very much like watching the lives of others unfold, in a way that felt like we were creeping in on their personal lives…. Which could make for its own creepy hacker narrative.
Overall the narrative was pretty good, maybe with some over dramatic acting at times, but felt believable enough. #WarGames plays with the ideas of fake news, the military complex, and “hacktivism” in pretty interesting ways, but I’m not sure if the game is really making a statement on today’s political discourse. Now that I work at a Cybersecurity company, I can’t help but laugh about some of the ways they interpret “Hacking”… but #WarGames is a pretty entertaining experiment. If you’re curious, it’s definitely worth the $3 price tag on steam. Although I do think I was probably more drawn into the narrative from “Her Story,” but I think that’s just based on personal taste. In any case both of these games are super interesting, and are doing things that other games simply aren’t.
You can pick both of these titles up on Steam, thanks for reading!
I make games, I play games... and sometimes I have some thoughts about that.