We Are OFK offers players a window into all the hookups, heartbreak, and disagreements that lead to virtual band OFK’s forming. The game, released last August, is described as a “Music biopic game and interactive e.p.”, but what does that even mean? For something to be considered a “game”, most people think it has to include puzzle-solving or combat. This game seems to include neither.
For the majority of the five episodes, the player watches the lives of four musicians play out with choices like selecting which text to send or a dialogue option. There are also interactive e.p. sections, which occur once per episode. During this part, the player moves a character through a music video, while carrying out actions like jumping on a skateboard, fighting off angry emojis, or destroying an ornately set up banquet. These interactive music videos feel fun and immersive, and the game’s cute and vibrant style does shine through.
The writing in this game is well done: characters are multifaceted and compelling and the dialogue has excellent moments of silliness, but also powerful heartfelt ones. Experiencing the character’s arcs made me feel inspired to create. All of that said, I did feel disappointed at the depth of the interactivity.
While the player gets to choose what to say and controls characters during the music videos, those choices do not seem to have any effect on the world in a lasting way. All major plot points will happen regardless of what choices you make and buttons you press during the music videos. Each episode also has a time estimate, and players are given the ability to pause at any time and see a bar that tells them how far into the episode they are. This furthers the feeling that the game is on a set track. In We Are OFK’s defense, this does make sense, as the story seems to be based on real events.
While playing We Are OFK, I found myself thinking of other games that do not rely on combat or puzzles for gameplay. Fullbright’s Gone Home and Tacoma center on locations that the player can explore. While doing so, the player encounters recordings, videos, and items that unravel the story of a place. What Remains of Edith Finch takes a similar approach, exploring an abandoned home and experiencing interactive minigames and moments that unfurl the mystery.
Then, I started to wonder if We Are OFK can be considered a visual novel, a genre typically defined as a text narrative with static or animated images that still does offer a degree of interactivity. When I think of visual novels, I think of Doki Doki Literature Club, Dream Daddy, and Kentucky Route Zero. These stories allow you to navigate a world and make choices.
While all of the aforementioned games focus on story, I don’t feel like I can group We Are OFK with any of them. We Are OFK’s third-person perspective never allows the player to fully inhabit a single character, which differentiates it from the explorative games. The game’s surface-level choices and fully voice-acted dialogue make it look and feel different from other visual novels.
Often, people think of games as goal-oriented. Shoot those bad guys and solve that puzzle and progress to the next thing. Games that exist outside of those goals are after something else. They want to create a feeling in their players. At one point in the game, a character tells a beautiful story about driving in the wrong direction on a family road trip. She says “sometimes it’s nice to have someone there to watch you walk the wrong way”.
That is what these undefinable games are after. They want the players to explore and experience a story, without an end goal in mind. In making We Are OFK, the developers were able to offer us a game that feels like it’s watching you walk in the wrong direction, while defiantly cheering you on.