How to Win $8.99

Game title: How To Win

Game description: How to Win is an anarchic adventure/gaming experiment where players decide the rules. Whatever you decide, that’s what happens next in our story. No matter what chaos it creates. Play through all 5 chapters of Season 1, then send us your ideas for Season 2!

Author: Andre Cole

3

This game is presented in a 4:3 format to preserve the integrity of Zack Snyder’s creative vision.

As a world, we will look back on 2020 as a pivotal moment in society. A global pandemic, protests for racial and social justice, political turmoil, and the list go on. Where that pivot takes us remains to be seen. One thing we can see, however, is how artists and creators are responding to these events in real near real-time through social media and the internet. Hidden Track, an interactive theater company in the U.K., found themselves unable to perform because of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. Their response was to shift their focus to creating a game while maintaining their interactive flare. The result is How To Win, a game that probably has terrible SEO.

Booting up How To Win is like being transported back to 2002, with Newgrounds open on your desktop. It looks and plays exactly how you remember a flash game playing. Made over the course of a couple of months, it’s not a mechanically complex game, it’s mostly a visual novel with a few branching paths and a handful of minigames. You start episode one in an idle clicker/idle game situation, while later in the game you find yourself playing a whack-a-mole type game. Simple activities to break up the story are all they are. You’re here for the writing.

The way Hidden Track created the game is what makes How To Win unique. Being an established theater company before their foray into making games, they utilized their existing audience to help them develop content for the game. Fans would submit their suggestions; Hidden Track would then comb through the suggestions, put their favorites up for a vote, and create content based on the winning votes. The main example of this would be the win condition objective of each episode. By audience vote, the first episode’s win condition is to “make the most money.” After each episode, the audience was again solicited for ideas and suggestions, which were then voted on after the developers chose their favorite options.

The game started production shortly after the time that national lockdowns started happening, specifically the lockdown of the U.K., where Hidden Track is based. In this remastered version of the original release, they explicitly point to the events that were happening at the time that shaped their storytelling. The group is not shy about their push for social justice, which has been present in their stage shows and made its way into How To Win. Subtlety is certainly not their goal, though. The game very openly addresses issues like income inequality, education, and racial justice. Often in ways that feel jarring.

That’s not to say the issues shouldn’t be handled. Many of the topics are introduced in a way that borders on parody and leans into the frustrations that many people can feel when these topics are broached. Not everyone has the mental capacity to constantly think about and unpack social issues in their free time. Some folks want to disengage their critical part of their brain and just have fun without being reminded of the world’s problems. It intends to address that we are constantly bombarded with entertainment and fun to make us ignore social and political issues. The approach they take to tackling this fact is heavy-handed on both sides of the message, which ends up diluting the point.

How To Win is a surprisingly nostalgic experience for those that spent time playing flash games in the early 2000s. It’s rife with a brand of British humor that may or may not land for people outside of the U.K., and even then, it’s hard to praise the writing. Fans of improv comedy will probably enjoy it quite a bit for its humor. This game-making approach is novel and has potential going forward as Hidden Track works on their sequel. As a piece of 2020 history, there are worse media experiences to have.

 


 

Pros

  • Socially conscious 
  • Short and sweet
  • A consistent sense of humor

Cons

  • Heavy-handed
  • Sense of humor is totally subjective
  • Super simple gameplay

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