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New 'We Are Chicago' Video Game Trailer Explores South Side Violence, Poverty

By Gwendolyn Purdom in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 31, 2016 5:05PM

While activists, city officials and presidential candidates address the violence and poverty ravaging parts of Chicago on a higher profile stage, a local video game developer who's spent the last few years building a game about life on the South Side is examining the issue this week in a new game trailer. The latest sneak peek at Culture Shock Games' "We Are Chicago" was posted online on Tuesday.

In the trailer, players see the world through the eyes of Aaron, a high school senior who lives with his single mother and younger sister on Chicago's South Side. Unlike more common first-person games in which the character is out to slay dragons or win a championship, "We Are Chicago" will take a more thoughtful approach and build its story on relationships and everyday experiences. The trailer shows a threat from a gun-flashing peer in a school hallway; a group of young men discussing their struggles to find a job; a tense family dinner interrupted by gunfire ("Everyone stay seated and don't go near the windows," Aaron's mom commands). The indie game, which is being developed in Ravenswood and set to be released next year, was created based on interviews with Englewood residents, and its creators plan to donate a portion of its proceeds to groups that are helping South and West Siders.

Creator Michael Block told Polygon a few years back that he was inspired by groups like "Louder Than A Bomb" when he started working on the project and he has dedicated a lot of time to getting to know the South and West Side residents whose collective stories his game will be telling. As the DePaul grad told the site:

"These things are actually happening every day, and it's such a different life than the life that I live, and I'm 10 miles away. It's not even ... somebody living in China or somebody living in rural Afghanistan. It's my neighbors that are 10 miles away from me. How is this such a drastically different life?"

The game (or at least part of it) will be available for attendees to check out at this weekend's Indie Mega Booth expo in Seattle, according to a "We Are Chicago" Twitter post.

[h/t: Polygon]