This was an article I had been trying to write for a long time. I wanted to write something about Off because of how it affected me and my friends, but I couldn’t figure out the right angle. This was probably the fourth idea I bounced around and luckily it got picked up by Re/Action Zine, a new webzine dedicated to video games analysis pieces and anything that wouldn’t normally fit on a typical video games website. I really enjoy what the zine is trying to do for the industry, so you should definitely give it a look (besides reading my piece, of course).
I remember my roommate was making funny looks.
“What’s up?” I asked.
“Trying to play this game,” she answered. “I found it on Tumblr.”
Originally the appeal was in the art style, she told me, which was a combination of monochrome, awkward characters and bright backgrounds, along with old-fashioned RPG elements. She had found the art all over Tumblr for a free, indie French game from 2007 that had recently been translated into English called Off. It was intriguing enough just by appearances to try it out, so I downloaded it too.
When I initially went to find the game, it was more difficult to find thanks to its simple title and lack of proper distribution, although nowadays you can Google it pretty easily. It was an art project created by a developer who online goes by Mortis Ghost. Despite this, its imprint is everywhere — from fan art, to comics, to blog posts trying to interpret the game’s tragic undertones and ending, to fanzines. There are even novelty accounts on Tumblr where fans roleplay the characters and have people ask them questions. Cosplays are very common, and my local anime convention was swarming with them. Not since Slender have I seen a free indie game take on a life of its own seemingly so quickly.
After I heard “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and the credits rolled, I saw why the game spread as quickly as it did, although in a way I wish I hadn’t. The ending left me with so many questions and so many emotions that I was not prepared for. I loved it, yet hated it for what it did. I needed to get other people to play it.