There have been a few games that have referenced to the fairly recent phenomenon of social networking, which is something that we now live with through Facebook, Twitter, and so on. Grand Theft Auto V for instance had LifeInvader, which is an over-the-top tongue-in-cheek parody of the Mark Zuckerberg product. While you can play with it a bit in that game, there hasn’t really been a game that has social networking as a central theme, excluding all those Zynga games. However, here is a game now that puts that concept on a whole new level.
If you’ve watched the Star Trek television series before, you’d know just where the title of the game comes from. Redshirt, developed by The Tinest Shark and published by Positech Games, is mostly a parody of the sci-fi genre that fans can appreciate while having fun with the gameplay, which is all about the relationship between the crew of the ship. There is even an in-game “Spacebook” that makes for quite a hilarious read and lets you see all the passive-aggressive dynamics between the characters. This is not about shooting and boarding enemy ships like in FTL, but it’s still about the crew of a ship. In fact, it’s mostly about that, with all the drama and hilarity that occurs between souls cooped up inside a metal shell in deep space.
Redshirt is basically a social networking simulator in a space exploration setting. Everyone in your network, including yourself, is a redshirt. For those who never watched Star Trek, a crew member in a red shirt is someone who is not expected to come back alive after being sent out on a mission. This makes for a rather interesting dynamic that is about building your own character and relationships with other redshirts while expecting them to die. It plays a bit like one of those dating simulations wherein you have a certain number of activities that you can do in each day, which you can invest on your own health and stats, as well as interacting with others to build relationships and such. You also get to like other people’s posts and such, like in the real thing we have online, which then can affect how that person sees you in some way.
Networking with others is crucial if you want to qualify for jobs that you’d otherwise not be fit for, which then means more money and higher rank among the residents on the space station you’re in. Of course, better jobs are typically more demanding and can be detrimental to your health, so you have to balance your time between your job, your interactions with others, and your own well-being. As it is a game, you may think that you can just game the system and build only relationships that will benefit you tremendously, but you’ll then encounter complications like romantic interests and such that may throw a wrench in your plans and make results less squeaky clean. It’s a lot like real life, which makes this game so attractive to adults who can relate to what goes on here.
The interface is easy enough to understand, so you won’t be fumbling about too much and should be able to focus on experimenting with different actions. It still does have some bugs and holes in it that some may find troublesome, but there should be patches coming up since this game has gotten a good bit of publicity due to its rather novel gameplay and style. Redshirt isn’t really as challenging as other games like FTL, but perhaps it’s not about sheer challenge. It’s more about enjoying whatever is going on during the game than just going for results, but the experience of doing stuff like irritating other people, watching them interact with each other with varying degrees of tension and awkwardness, and so on.
If you like games with novel gameplay mechanics like Papers, Please and other titles that turn everyday activities into deep experiences, or at least some hilarious moments. Redshirt is great for science fiction fans who get where this game is coming from.
Tested in PC. Final Score: 8.5/10