No doubt, running a newspaper in a country ruled by autocrats is a challenging thing to do. Everybody knows it, and everybody claims they will support the rebels in case of an uprising—theoretically, at least. However, when it comes to real life, everything can be far more complicated. Government news censoring is a controversial topic, and this indie computer game, called The Westport Independent, will give you a great and realistic glimpse of how it actually goes.
So, you are an editor-in-chief at a private newspaper. As the game starts, you receive a message saying that the new law requires mass media to present the news in a way that is appropriate and useful for the current regime. While playing, you have to choose which paragraphs of an article to leave and which ones to delete, sometimes completely changing the message of the piece. Obviously, you can either support the Rebellion or the ruling party called Loyalists. However, regardless of your political convictions, the main goal is to survive the whole gaming “cycle,” which lasts 12 weeks. Moreover, you have employees (whose articles you censor) to take care of at all times.
The game, designed by indie studio Double Zero One Zero, was meant to raise controversial topics of freedom of the media, information accessibility, and the role of each particular person in this process. The game is hard and heavy, especially if you try the Rebellion scenario. During the play, you are shown some facts from the private lives of your employees. For example, a convinced Loyalist, who completely approves beating of innocent people by the police, has his own drama. He talks about his ill brother and taking him to physiotherapy. Also, once you choose to be a rebel completely, your newspaper gets closed down at week 7. And one of your employees, Frank, who supported the Rebellion, disappears.
The cooling effect of the death of one of The Westport Independent writers (and probably not the only one) will make you rethink your decisions, we promise you. And then you find yourself balancing between the truth and attempts to save your newspaper and your employees’ lives.