Need to know
What is it? An interactive series about the ups and downs of being a 20-year-old in LA, and the creation of the virtual band OFK
Expect to pay: $20/£18
Developer: Create OFK
Publisher: Create OFK
Reviewed on: Windows 10, Intel i5-10500H, 16 GB, RTX 3060 (laptop)
Link: ofk.cool (opens in a new tab)
We Are OFK’s biggest flaw comes off the hook: The game exists to launch OFK as a music project. It’s the fictional origin story of a “real” virtual band (think Riot’s K/DA musical group). The songs have to work as stand-alone commercial hits, leading to compromises that wouldn’t be made for a regular OST, all while the act itself goes out of its way to criticize such compromises as inauthentic. The characters are also a product that the game is trying to sell: It wants me to like them, support them, and project myself onto them.
We Are OFK is focused on the band’s formation in a pastel-heavy LA, and has minimal interaction. Sporadic dialogue options share insight into a character’s thoughts or feelings, but do not affect anything outside of the moment. There will be two different ways to call someone a jerk, or three different ways to get hyped about boba, but you’re still stuck with “jerk” and “yay boba.” The story is divided into five episodes that are approximately one hour long each, and will be released weekly along with a single and music video.
The first episode ends with the music video for Follow/Unfollow. The song debuted at last year’s Game Awards over a video of the virtual crew, but here it’s layered over abstract mini-games that turn it into a messy breakup song – playing phone break-ups while you try not to text an ex, and herding cats to a return box. More toy than game, these pieces add visual excitement but don’t affect anything.
The trap of OFK being a real band trying to make relatable bops for the whole audience means that some songs seem to fit the episode’s mission better than others. An ode to the human experience of insecurity and impostor syndrome, Fool’s Gold has no trouble mapping to a specific character. Footsteps, on the other hand, really wants to lose you in the beat and its more technically involved music video – but is all style and no substance when seized to the end of an episode about grief and alienation.
The band is a team of quirky, chaotic 20-somethings. It’s Itsumi, the anime-loving keyboardist who has a habit of getting messy drunk and sending keyboard smashes in the group chat. Luca, the lead singer and general space suit, passionate because he’s distractible. Carter, on audiovisual effects, a soft-spoken technical genius whose train of thought is a bit sideways. Finally, Jey, their producer, who seems like she’s got her act together but tries to live up to impossible standards.
We are OFK focuses exclusively on the bandmates, their wants and needs, and the ways in which they get along and conflict with each other. Most of the series is spent watching them talking to each other in person or on their phones. They sext via coded emojis at a bar, text while bored at work, and check the group chat while on a date. This insight into characters’ private spaces—including the way they think about what they say—should make me feel closer to them, but it has the opposite effect.
You know when someone tries to hype you up about this really funny thing that went down in their group chat, only to share a screenshot and—without the chemistry of being the people in the group at that moment—it’s just kind of awkward? I talked about the goth cowboy #aesthetic in one of mine this morning, so I’m by no means immune to asinine, but I also know that I can’t explain that bat emoji cowboy emoji is funny to anyone else. We Are OFK tries to recreate that dynamic, but most often it comes across as cruel.
It’s so clear that We Are OFK wants me to like their characters and feel close to them that anything that lands wrong tends to land hard. In the first episode, Luca compares a trivial choice of songs to the Holocaust film Sophie’s Choice – something he is only familiar with through cultural osmosis. It’s meant to show off that he’s hyperbolic and a little foolish, but I found it unpleasantly distasteful and hated that “Sophie’s kids thing” became a recurring joke between two characters over several episodes.
Given that We Are OFK’s attempts to get me to connect with the cast failed, it’s no surprise that my favorite episode is one that slows things down by taking me away from the group, and has relatively little texting. It’s almost disconnected, save for some drunk-on-yogurt lyrics from Itsumi, and quietly focuses on grief. The series’ themes – vulnerability, conflicting needs – are best expressed in the one episode that deviates most from the format. It is especially the one where the music video feels least integrated. Best episode, worst promotion of OFK.
There are cleverly composed scenes in We Are OFK. The presentation of dialogue choices are often framed as little visual gags, and there are funny and thoughtful callbacks across multiple episodes. When it breaks format, it does so with incredible playfulness and heart. The experience is only held back by the band.
There’s something at once too real and too fake about We Are OFK that always makes you feel like you’re being sold something. There are details that feel there for the catharsis of others, for example when Luca and Itsumi speak out about the crud and mismanagement of their day jobs in the games industry. Luca talks about wanting to make meaningful art that helps people, and is repeatedly assured that he is, and it’s hard to tell that with the catchy but nothing-y dance pop the band produces in-universe. It’s thematically a pitch for an indie underdog amidst a plot that’s textually about using industry connections.
The news here is in the hook: It’s not just a game, it’s a fictional biopic of a “real” virtual band, which streams three times a week on Twitch, and hopes to go on tour. Putting the novelty aside, there are several interesting stories about 20-year-olds finding themselves. There’s interactive fiction that uses text in more engaging ways, and games that don’t try to sell you a relationship with their product.