I have never had more mixed feelings about a game in my entire life. I’m literally dizzy with conflicting signals.
* I mostly love the game design aesthetic out of Sweden. Even though I knew Symbaroum wasn’t for me, I could mostly see what they were going for. And the Fria Ligan crew (not involved with this game) are batting close to 1.000 for me.
* I have a long history with the genre and subject matter.
* The production of this game looks lavish and amazing.
* The art direction looks like they’re doing all the right things representation-wise.
* Nearly everything else, including some of my upsides.
Like…I’m sure Swedish writers and game designers are perfectly capable of dissecting the Western genre. It’s well explained, well documented, fairly straightforward at least as a surface read. But then I have squirms in my stomach about the inevitable cultural problems, appropriations, whatevers that come along with the genre, especially if you’re going all-in on it. You can’t do the Western genre without your noble savages and whores with hearts of gold and wily Chinese mystics and stoic Buffalo Soldiers and proud sinless Scandinavian settlers.
But every time another Western genre game comes out, my horror grows at how utterly fucked up the genre is. Every single game is a horror show of one kind or another. I hate feeling complicit in the relentless erosion of our country’s actual history and the buttressing of a national creation myth that, frankly, strides right across the line into straight-up evil propaganda.
I hate feeling helpless as a maybe-designer to express these ideas and fears and worries. I hate pretty much knowing that any effort to offer anything that isn’t the genre and isn’t fun gunslinger time and straightforward morality will ultimately be a waste of everyone’s time, especially mine.
I want to own this game. I want to back their effort. I want to hate it. I want to scream at everyone who wants good guys with guns to put down bad guys with guns, starting with me. I want to know how to approach serious subject matter and not instantly discard the effort as trivial.