the year is 20XX, and the world faces an impending crisis-- but you’re not a gunslinger, hacker, or any sort of hero. per the official description, “Umurangi Generation is a first person photography game in the shitty future.” you’re just a courier in Tauranga Aotearoa, New Zealand making ends meet as a photographer during breaks. behind the lens of your camera, from sunset-lit skateparks to neon soaked refugee camps, you’ll see the world slowly burn while the government tries to maintain “normalcy”. despite this, it’s people burn just as bright in life and rage, and at punk dances and protests, you bear witness and testimony to the eponymous umurangi generation.
umurangi translates to “red sky” in Te Reo, the Māori language, reflecting the game’s background: developer Naphtali “Veselekov” Faulkner, a member of the Ngai Te Rangi tribe, was originally inspired by australia’s ‘19 brushfires and the botched government response. however, by the time it came out, it ended up as a timely commentary on 2020 with it’s themes of “inevitable” disaster, neoliberal indifference, and capitalist decay. although the recent cyberpunk revival has been characterized by violence, orientalism, and cynicism, umurangi stands out with it’s indigenous perspective and intentionally anti-fascist narrative, offering a cautionary tale of place, perspective, and survival.
in many ways it’s the antithesis of many modern AAA games- it’s a FPS where you never fire a bullet, small closed levels instead of big open worlds, intentionally “restrictive” gameplay, zero cutscenes and expository dialogue, dreamcast-era graphics, a one man dev with no formal experience. but it’s exactly for those reasons that (imho) it’s the perfect game to bring up in the context of this course, where we might interrogate how gameplay mechanics interact with storytelling, how modes of play affect how we understand/interact with the world, how politics manifest in games (implicitly vs explicitly), what sort of representation matters in in games and their development process (and whether or not we should even look to the AAA industry for it), existing genre conventions and their implications, what sorts of games are usually talked about in critic & academic circles, etc
also i realize that i basically said nothing about whether or not the game is actually fun to play, so in case you were wondering: it absolutely is. the style and graphics are absolutely gorgeous, every level is lovingly detailed and handcrafted, the music bops, the environmental storytelling is top notch and revealed perfectly through the gameplay, you can rush through a level or get lost in it, you actually learn photography, there’s a penguin, etc. it’s available on steam for $15 (i got it for $12 during the last steam sale), and a port is coming out for switch later this year- incorporates gyro controls so you can angle your switch like a real camera and get some neat shots. get it, support indie devs, support indigenous devs, support indie indigenous devs who make killer games.