The Westport Independent drops you into the role of a newspaper editor, forcing players to make integral decisions about the paper’s content. If this sounds strange, it is; the game shares a lot of similarities with another popular offbeat paper pushing indie title, Papers Please.
In the game’s world, The Westport Independent is one of the few newspapers still in operation as a so-called “Public Culture” bill looms on the horizon. This bill, essentially, allows the government to decide what should be printed in the newspaper. A rebellion against this stringent political shift is brewing, and as the player, your job is to decide which side to support.
To accomplish this players need to decide what stories to print, how to edit them, and most importantly, which reporters should cover each article. Deciding what to cover, as well as what not to cover, is a delicate balancing act since the city’s four districts have particular news preferences and varied demographics, and each writer on your staff has a different political viewpoint.
If the news in your paper slants too far towards the rebels, the country’s overlords will crack down on you, but likewise, if you opt not to support the rebels with your coverage, there will be consequences from that side of the game’s political spectrum as well.
Your job as editor is to decide what stories to print, how to edit them and who should write them up. While this might not sound compelling, it actually is, especially when it comes to choosing which region to market your publication to in the city’s four districts.
As someone who works as a journalist and spent a significant portion of their career at a newspaper, I was constantly at odds with myself over what to do. I found it difficult to bow down to the government and cede to their demands, but I was also aware that my publication’s continued criticism of the country’s political state was putting my editorial staff in direct danger.
The Westport Independent likely isn’t the type of game that will be fun for everyone, but for those who prefer slower, narrative-driven gaming experiences, it’s definitely worth checking out.