We are OFK Review
need to know
what is it? An interactive series about the ups and downs of 20s in Los Angeles, and the making of virtual band OFK
Expected payment: $20/£18
Developer: OFK team
Publisher: OFK team
Comment on: Windows 10, Intel i5-10500H, 16GB, RTX 3060 (laptop)
multiplayer game? Do not
Association: ofk.cool (opens in a new tab)
We Are OFK’s biggest flaw emerges from its hook: the game exists to launch OFK as a musical project. It’s a fictional origin story for a “real” virtual band (think Riot’s K/DA music group). The songs had to function as stand-alone commercial hits, resulting in a compromise that wouldn’t be made for a regular OST, which the plot itself goes to great lengths to criticize as unreal. These characters are also the products the game is trying to sell: it really wants me to like them, support them, and project myself onto them.
We Are OFK focuses on band formation in subdued Los Angeles and features minimal interaction. The occasional dialogue option shares insight into the character’s thoughts or feelings, but doesn’t affect anything outside of the present moment. There are two different ways to call someone a jerk, or three different ways to promote boba, but you’re still stuck with “jerk” and “yay boba.” The story is divided into five episodes, each about an hour long, released weekly, with a single and a music video.
The first episode ends with a follow/unfollow music video. The song debuted at last year’s Game Awards in a video for a virtual crew, but here it’s set on abstract mini-games, turning it into a messy breakup song — while playing phone breakout, While trying not to get drunk text your ex and drive the cat back into the box. These parts are more like toys than games, adding visual stimulation without affecting anything.
Obviously, We Are OFK wants me to like its characters and feel close to them, so that anything that goes wrong is going to be hard to land.
OFK is a bona fide band, and the pitfalls of trying to make relevant bops for all audiences means that some songs seem to fit their synopsis better than others. Fool’s Gold is an ode to the human insecurities and impostor syndrome experiences that can also be easily mapped to specific characters. Footsteps, on the other hand, really wants to lose you in beats and a more technical music video – but at the end of an episode about sadness and alienation, it’s just style, not substance.
The band is a quirky, chaotic 20-something group. There’s Itsumi, a keyboard player who loves anime, who has a habit of getting drunk and sending keyboard smashes in group chats. Luca, lead singer and overall space case, is full of passion because he gets distracted easily. Carter, a soft-spoken technical genius in terms of audio-visual effects, his thinking is a bit crooked. And finally there’s Jey, their producer, who seems to have gotten her thing done, but is trying to achieve the impossible.
We are OFK is entirely focused on the band members, their wishes and needs, and the way they blend and conflict with each other. Much of the series is spent watching them talk face to face or on their phones. They’re texting via coded emoji at bars, texting when bored at work, and checking out group chats when they’re dating. This insight into the personal spaces of the characters—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 this really funny thing in their group chat, just to share a screenshot – and doesn’t have the chemistry of being in the group at that moment – it’s just a little awkward? I was in one of mine this morning talking about goth cowboy #aesthetic, so I’m not immune to asinine, but I also know I can’t explain how bat-emoji-cowboy-emoji is funny to other people. We Are OFK Attempts to recreate this dynamic, but it tends to give the impression of cringe.
There is something too real and too fake in We Are OFK at the same time.
Obviously we’re OFK wanting me to love its characters and feel close to them so that anything that goes wrong is going to be hard to land. In the first episode, Luca compares a trivial choice of song to that of the Holocaust movie Sophie — something he’s only familiar with through cultural infiltration. It’s to show off his hyperbole and a little bland, but I find it disturbing, and hate that “Sophie’s children” is a recurring joke for both characters in multiple episodes.
Given that We Are OFK’s attempts to connect me with its cast failed, it’s no surprise that one of my favorite episodes slowed me down by taking me away from the group, and was relatively text-heavy. It’s barely plugged in, save for some drunken yogurt text messages from Itsumi, silently focused on grief. The series’ themes—fragility, conflicting needs—are best expressed in one of the most divergent episodes of the format. Notably, music videos have the least integration. Best episode, worst OFK publicity.
(Image credit: OFK Team)
There are cleverly composed scenes in We Are OFK. The presentation of dialogue choices is often framed as tiny visual gimmicks, with interesting and thoughtful callbacks across multiple episodes. When it breaks the format, it does so with incredible playfulness and care. The experience was just held back by the band.
We Are OFK has something that is both too real and too fake to always feel like you are being sold on something. There are details that feel cathartic, like Luca and Itsumi venting about austerity and mismanagement in their day-to-day work in the gaming industry. Luca talks about wanting to make meaningful art to help people, reassuring him repeatedly that he is, and it’s hard to compare to the catchy but pointless dance pop the band makes out of the universe. Its subject is the subject of an independent underdog in an episode about the use of industry connections.
Here’s the novelty: this isn’t just a game, it’s a fictional biopic for a “real” virtual band who stream 3 times a week on Twitch and want to keep on tour. Novelty aside, there are more interesting stories of 20-somethings finding themselves. There are interactive novels that use text in more engaging ways, and games that don’t try to sell you a relationship with their products.
(Image credit: OFK Team)
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