WarGames came out back in March so there’s a good chance it’s passed you by. In any case it comes free online with advert support or via Steam and the App Store for less than a morning coffee. It’s the latest from Her Story creator Sam Barlow and comes in collaboration with the Eko studio so given the success of his pervious work, this comes with high expectations.
War Games, no real connection to the 1983 movie of the same name, works like as an interactive live TV show that follows the story of Kelly and a group of Hacker Activists as they morph from organising pranks to discovering and exposing clandestine government secrets. We see their lives on screen presented via their computers and phone cameras which offers an intimate and personal window into their worlds as we explore the narrative.
As perhaps you could expect, you play the game as you would watch any regular TV show – in this case you’re offered multiple visual feeds that resemble a live action show that play all together at the same time. Using your mouse to drag one of these feeds to the centre of the screen you decide which piece of footage you want to focus on while the others continue in the back ground all in real time.
While interactive tv inspired games are nothing new, by actively choosing which video feed you wish to focus on, war games will adapt kelly’s actions and personality according to your choices – therein lies the gaming mechanic – your selections impact and drive the story forwards which is both clever, and perhaps a little too subtle and understated in its execution.
As we journeyed through the 6 part story and moved between the various feeds, we didn’t get a feeling our choices were having an influence on the story or Kelly’s personality as the events progressed – there’s no feedback loop where your able to pinpoint where your choice made the story branch from one time line to another – come the end of each episode there’s an overview of where the narrative might have changed although the cause and effect of your actions remain unclear throughout.
Kelly comes across as a credible and plausible while at times dipping into central casting. The other characters while also box ticking a few classic clichés, amongst them we have the odd ball high schooler, a pale girl in a darkened bedroom with tinges of green hair and oversized headphones and a horridly disingenuous news presenter. While some of the acting isn’t as robust as it might have been, the dialogue between them is strongly written which in turn drives the relationships as the story develops.
Where war games does fall short, it does so in its discussion about issues and topics relevant in today’s social media led culture. The story begins with Kelly’s team pranking an artist who recently played before a known war criminal before quickly moving on to Kelly’s recently deceased mother, a high ranking military official whose memory and actions are being used by different groups to support numerous and disparate viewpoints.
From here we touch upon drone strikes, doxing and various other issues such as the ethics behind the invasion of personal privacy for the benefit of the wider public. Sadly the story jumps from topic to topic without getting into a deeper grip of them to undertake a decent analysis – similarly, Kelly’s team seem unstructured, they have no cohesiveness no overarching ethos to their behaviour and seem driven by self-interests.
As a concept, Wargames with its interactive TV choice driven gaming style is a format we found most interesting and would like to see and feel more experiences like it.
In this case, we return to speculating what changes our choices made to Kelly and the story as it developed – perhaps additional play throughs will make this more apparent and yet we leave War Games with the feeling we needed less subtly in the implementation and more indication on the outcomes of your choices – this would offer a greater sense of involvement and investment within it that in turn would create a dynamic, rather than linear visual gaming experience.
While wargames doesn’t quite deliver as best it could, it’s clever, perhaps too clever with its scope which ultimately means it doesn’t reach the highs of Her Story. That said, we would recommend taking a look at war games, especially the advert supported free online version.
We suspect a follow up series to be on the cards and would very much welcome a secondary view into Wargames and the team of hacker’s therein.
We played #WarGames via the online free to play version found here: