Can you be nostalgic for someone else’s life? That’s a question that kept running through my head as I was playing We are OFK as, to me, it speaks directly to my period of early to mid twenties. Not so much the actual events of the story, I don’t think I could be more removed from the world of music production and marketing, but more the way relationships start, are built and, sometimes, unfortunately torn apart. Layered on top of this is also the affirmation of what one’s identity is and the struggles we all go through to honestly define to ourselves who we are. Really the essence of this story could be told with any setting, but the backdrop of Los Angeles, the entertainment sector and a motley crew of 20-somethings is what the developers needed to show off their real talent: interactive music videos.
Itsumi Saito just left her hometown after a messy breakup with her long term girlfriend, moving away to get a job with a games development company in the marketing team. Settling into the rhythm of this new city hasn’t been easy, the balancing act of keeping up with her friends, practicing her piano and commuting across Los Angeles every day leaves her with precious time for little else. Things start to change however when she sneaks herself into one of the biggest parties in Hollywood, vying for a chance to bump into one of the upcoming music producers for a chance to change her life.
We are OFK’s visual styles are a blend of the classic indie low poly/low texture aesthetic that’s then layered with a number of lighting effects that are lined up with narrative effective. The colours varied between surreal bright neons to reflect the games more dreamy/unreal scenes, with the more grounded moments taking on a more muted pastel colour palette. It’s simple and effective, providing an enjoyable backdrop to the game’s main focus: its narrative. That being said the game does manage to pull off some incredibly memorable visual scenes, my screenshot folder being a testament to that.
As a game there’s really not much to discuss. By the developer’s own words it’s an interactive E.P. that follows the origin story of the game’s namesake fictional band. The core of the story is split between the onscreen interactions between the characters and their rapid fire text messages. You’ll have some influence over those conversations, choosing to adopt a particular kind of personality for that character (although all of them with that early-20s irreverence). The crowning jewel is the conclusion of each episode which is an interactive video clip, usually a surreal adventure that deals with the episode’s core theme or cliffhanger.
Taken as an interactive TV show We are OFK is exceptionally crafted. The dialog between the characters is punchy and well paced (although there are options to change that to suit your own preference, brilliant!), keeping you well engaged throughout each episode. The slightly surreal setting gives the writers plenty of space to bend reality in the cause of the story, giving you opportunity to explore some more mature themes without having to confront them directly. Then there’s just the small housekeeping touches like the (normally hidden) scrubbing slider at the bottom that tells you how long each episode is. As someone who’s chronically time poor these days things like that are an absolute godsend
As what the kids would call an Elder Millennial it has…been some time since I was in my twenties. But I still remember those formative years, the ones where you’re thrust into adulthood without much of a manual and are left to figure it out for yourself. That time is often spent trying to make the best of what you have, balancing your now adult responsibilities with your the desires and the reality of your overall situation. You have freedom, but not a lot, bound by the pressures of work and the societal expectations put upon you. What this results in is, as we the older well know, is a time of making mistakes and learning to make good on or live with them. This is also the time when you begin to crystallise the various parts of your identity: who you are to yourself, to others and what you want them to become.
The exploration of these themes in We are OFK is what drove such a strong sense of nostalgia for me. From the outside it can be so easy to see others making mistakes and wanting to jump in and stop them from doing it. But these are lessons that can’t be learnt through instruction, we all have to build our own tools for dealing with mistakes, trauma and the various ways the world and its people try to dictate where you go. I think this is why, despite sharing almost nothing in common with the characters of this game, I felt such a strong affinity for their experience. It also felt like a great representation of what human connection looks like today in our technology enabled world: but on, in and around the light bricks and associated tech that travels with us every day.
We are OFK stands out as one of those games which punches well above its weight, demonstrating a level of craftsmanship that is well above what I’d expect from a first time game developer. Whilst its construction and general mechanics absolutely hit the mark they are a simple backdrop to the game’s narrative, one that I feel deals with themes that are relatable on a universal, human level. On top of all of this the tracks that they’ve put together are absolute bangers and were an excellent backdrop to writing this blog post. I truly did not expect to get as much out of We are OFK as I did and I’m glad I was able to binge all of it over the course of a week (sometimes being slack on things has its benefits!).
We are OFK is available on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 and Nintendo Switch right now for $30. Game was played on the PC with a total of 5.7 hours playtime with 82% of the achievements unlocked.