The Average Gamer

Indie Rock: The Westport Independent

The Westport Independent Logo
There’s no such thing as objectivity in news reporting. That’s all I’ve taken from my three years of journalism school, save for mountains of debt and spurious employment. There are only three ways of writing a news story, and not a single one of them could be considered balanced: You are either critical of an idea (which is taking a stance), supportive of an idea (which is taking a stance) and plainly portray a picture of events (which is either supportive or critical depending on a number of factors and if I explained them here I’d have to mail you a diploma too).

The Westport Independent is a game about adapting a newspaper’s coverage in order that you either produce a portrayal of events which supports the guidelines of a fascistic censoring dictatorship or is sympathetic to the plight of a rioting underclass. You’re attempting to not be shut down, but you’re also trying to offer a clear picture of events, even if the government doesn’t like it.

You’re offered three short news features each day and are able to trim out segments to fit a clearer narrative, leave them as-is or disregard the entire story and chuck it away, meaning the story goes unreported and the events undocumented and unaccounted.

Crucially, it’s never possible for you to produce a reading that is inaccurate: you can’t ever lie. All you can do is refuse to include pieces of information that allow the reader to form a different opinion than the one you’d prefer them to draw. Everything that you print happened; the trick is the way you choose to report how it happened. For example: there’s an article which says The Leader visits a local school to teach them about politics. You’re able to leave out that this is a private school. It’s still a school. He still went there. It’s probably embarrassing to reveal that detail and it can be excluded from print.

Westport Independent -BombingThere are two meters on the top right which show your willingness to toe the party line or appeal to the public. They seem to go up at random while I’ve played, which is either a nice commentary about not being able to really understand fully how your creative work is going to be received, or it’s just broken.

Everything’s a little too binary. The game would benefit from some Papers Please level consideration into not just a newspaper’s obligations as the Fourth Estate while attempting not to be shut down by the powers they are attempting to hold accountable, but how it also deals with balancing editorial coverage which is critical of potential advertisers or how you repair a dwindling circulation number without resorting to yellow journalism. There’s a definite shell of an idea here, one that tries to have a real discussion of the role of reporting in society and the issues endemic to it.

And if no one else makes that game, maybe I will. In fact, forget you read this.