Imagine existing in a world where video game memes were real, where having an NES Zapper holstered in your belt wasn’t out of the ordinary, and where video games were a drug and a hellish underworld existed for their distribution. If you said “hey, this sounds like living on the internet,” you would be right. At least that is how I felt while playing American Werewolves in Vietnam.
The plot revolves around Hollis Kane, a freelance journalist, who is tasked with writing about the “Vidcon gangers,” and this about as far as the story gets whilst making sense. After meeting her photographer at the airport she reminisces about a family cookout that took place when she was in high school. Awkward family conversations ensue — “Michael Jordan is the World of Warcraft of Basketball players” is an actual quote from this segment — but instead of returning to the airport we have flashed forward to a scene where Hollis and the photographer have been kidnapped by Vidcon gangers and forced to play Russian Roulette with an NES Zapper.
I’m going to be forward here, a lot of this game eludes me. The plot is difficult to follow at best and nonsense at worst. Time is an aspect that is never respected as the story constantly shifts between past, present, and future without any indication or transitionary text. There isn’t much world building at all despite most of the pages having flavor text for those searching for some understanding. Yet, there are references and jokes placed everywhere about everything. Zork, GamerGate, games journalism, stereotypical gamers, feminists, false allies, video game addiction, WoW, CoD, mixing up SNES and NES games. While I never really laughed at many of these I did understand them, insofar that I recognized them. This game is filled with parody of “game culture” but isn’t funny and rarely makes sense.
Maybe that is the point of American Werewolves in Vietnam, that game culture doesn’t make sense and is self perpetuating. For as long as I can remember people have been discussing how to bring video games into the mainstream, how to make it an “established art form” like movies and books. The biggest issue has been all of the in-jokes and the unique vocabulary that revolves around gaming. While I have always known how excluding video game jargon is for people outside of video games, I never understood how strange and foreign it all is. I think that is what American Werewolves is going for. I understood the individual words of the work but I could never figure out what they meant when pieced together. The entire world seemed so distant from my own, much like how video gaming is so different from the rest of culture.
American Werewolves in Vietnam
Created by: RON|N
Can Be Found at: http://ronin.itch.io/american-werewolves-in-vietnam