Culture

Neofeud: a computer game with a social conscience

Neofeud is a point-and-click adventure game in the vein of such classics as Beneath a Steel Sky or Broken Sword. It was first released in 2017 by Silver Spook Games, and is an interesting game for several reasons.

Neofeud screenshot showing a downtown slum scene.
An underworld slum scene.

This game is essentially the work of one person: Christian Miller, a social worker, teacher, and writer from Hawaii. The story is inspired by his experiences growing up amid extreme inequality and working with poor, disadvantaged, mostly non-white people living in the slums of “paradise”. In Hawaii poverty exists side-by-side with tourism and immigration by wealthy people looking for ‘the good life’ (as is often the case with island holiday destinations). Miller describes this as “a somewhat ‘postmodern’ and dissonant existence.”

Not only has Christian Miller written the story of Neofeud, he has done the artwork, game development, most of the music, and even some of the voice acting. This is a remarkable achievement – all the more so because he was apparently homeless and living in a van while the game was under development.

The graphic style of the game is colourful and baroque, with something of an ‘outsider artist’ feeling. It has a collage-like effect reminiscent of the “punk art surrealistWinston Smith, which is appropriate given the dystopian subject matter.

Neofeud shootout scene.
A shootout scene.

The story of Neofeud follows Karl Carbon, a disgraced ex-cop living a Kafkaesque existence as a social worker at the lowest level of society. Karl is drawn into a conspiracy involving one of his disadvantaged young robot charges and the ruling elite of the near-future Neofeudal Earth. This world has been shaped by AI, genetic engineering, and nanotechnology controlled by the super-rich, and is a strange place.

This is a creative and imaginative story which addresses a number of topics, from discrimination, inequality and injustice to time travel and the dangers of the technological singularity. It’s written with humour and many knowing references to pop culture and the cliches of the sci-fi and cyberpunk genres. The satirical humour keeps the game from being too dark and depressing.

Neofeud future technology.
Future technology.

Most, if not all, point-and-click adventure games have irritating sections. Usually this involves an annoyingly obscure puzzle solution or item combination. With Neofeud the puzzles are not too difficult, but it does have some frustrating action scenes which necessitate trial and error. Frequent reloading is likely for these.

Neofeud is obviously not a big-budget production and does have some rough edges, but the voice acting and writing are good enough to make several of the characters quite endearing, and the story becomes increasingly compelling. It’s well worth a look if you like this type of game or have an interest in dystopian fiction.

Neofeud is available for Windows, MacOS, and Linux, via Steam or Itch.io (where it is currently on sale.)

Neofeud title screen