The Westport Independent is a potentially interesting new game for iOS, Android and Steam, and the release date has now been announced for January 21st, 2016.
There’s already a fair amount of buzz around the game, which is billed as a ‘censorship simulator’ – particularly relevant given the current media landscape around the world. In a fictional post-war country, you’re the editor of one of the last independent newspapers. Which means you can remove or edit what goes to press, affecting the people’s opinions of both the recently elected Loyalist Party and rebels.
While you can’t print outright lies, you can change the content and meaning of your articles by adapting them, which will then not only lead to employees reacting, but also discussing your decisions with other colleagues. And that’s before the outside world respond with letters and messages from public figures, rebel leaders and other characters, and lead to changes in what happens in your city and the stories you receive (From the hundreds available in the game).
It’s not the first title to mix game mechanics and entertainment with socially-aware topics and potential lessons. The most notable in terms of press coverage and reception was indie title ‘Papers Please‘, which was released in 2013. And while immigration has only become more newsworthy and contentious in the two years since, awareness of the media is equally important in the era of ‘peak content’ and information overload.
The Westport Independent was originally released on various websites after just 72 hours in development. It’ll be fascinating to see how it has been expanded into a full-length game, and whether it avoids the potential pitfall of putting the message over the gameplay elements. One common criticism of Papers Please was that although it was important and affected the thoughts and emotions of many gamers, the actual gameplay mechanism could become repetitive and somewhat shallow.
See what you think of the new Westport Independent Trailer above and let us know what you think. And keep an eye out for our review of the full game in the future.