Pax Prime 2015: We Are Chicago

Life on Chicago’s Southside can be a tough one. For many of the people living there, drugs, violence, and gangs are a constant that becomes as common as a dog barking or a car driving by with gunshots ringing out at night. Even those who do not want anything to do with that kind of life are forced to face it head-on, and as a result, sometimes good individuals get caught in the crossfire. It can be tough to convey the weight of the decisions you have to make while living there, but Culture Shock Games have tried to do that with their latest We Are Chicago game.

We Are Chicago tells the story of a teenager stuck in the middle of everything, using real in-depth interviews with people who have experienced life there firsthand, as he tries to make it unscathed by his environment every day. The decisions he makes hold weight, but it’s not a matter of black and white, good or evil, unlike a lot of choice-based games. To protect yourself and those you love is to navigate through the grey. It showcases the struggles of life in real life, where what you say and how you say it can influence your daily life. Your scenario is rich in complexity, and even the way you speak at the dinner table can mean the difference between having a good day or one of the worst days of your life.

One of the most compelling things about the game is how to try and make a difference using an interactive medium. A portion of the game’s proceeds will be used to support non-profit groups to assist people in need, and the game itself will be used as a message to show what can be done to assist those in and out of Chicago. For those who have not had the opportunity to speak up, it is creating a voice and Culture Shock Games have made it clear that they hope We Are Chicago can create a deeper understanding and awareness of life so that change can happen someday. They try to start a conversation about the kind of life these individuals experience if nothing else, and I applaud the developers for taking that approach.

The game has already made leaps and bounds even in its early stages to best convey its story. Although sometimes lip-syncing and the occasional graphical hitch might be a bit annoying, the voice acting and soundtrack really draw you in. Some may complain that a silent protagonist may be a bit distracting, but it felt like the studio was really trying to put you in this character’s shoes, where this player character can project your own thoughts and decisions. I’ll be interested in seeing how this game develops and grows as time goes on, and I can’t wait to see what it looks like when it’s released, exclusively on PC, sometime next year.