Gorillaz is perhaps the most famous example of a virtual band, at least in the West. Elsewhere, virtual idol Hatsune Miku is omnipresent, her personality projected onto her by fans. The four-piece band OFK is different: before you’ve heard their music, you’ll know exactly who they are. The band itself isn’t real – it’s an invention of the songwriters, composers and game designers working together on LA development team OFK – but the music is, and this is a novel and intriguing way to experience it.
We Are OFK is a band biopic delivered across five animated episodes. Four friends meet by chance, sowing seeds of creativity and opportunity that thrive despite LA’s cutthroat music scene. As catchy as the band’s electro-pop catchy tunes are, the real catch comes from spending time with them: manager/keyboardist Itsumi, vocalist Luca, producer Jey, and VFX artist Carter.
There’s a danger that anyone who’s not a Zoomer might have trouble relating to the young, achingly hip cast, especially reading through the text chats that make up a significant portion of the game. (At least we can find solace in Jey, the oldest member of the group, who punctuates her lyrics properly.) Yet in the hands of writers Teddy Dief and Claire Jia, what might come across as indulgent or irritating is an honest grasp on the heart . The screenplay is bursting with personality and authenticity, which is delivered naturalistically by his cast; Dief, who juggles many hats as the series’ showrunner, also provides the voice and vocals for Luca.
Beneath the peachy backdrops of Boba tea cafes, trendy clubs and Hollywood parties lies an aching melancholy as each band member works through their personal issues, be it Itsumi with their recent nasty breakup or the seemingly cool Carter, who is still from Haunted by past events, they don’t feel comfortable sharing them with their new group of friends. The band’s diverse makeup of different ethnicities, sexual orientations, and gender identities allows the game to represent the unsavory parts of the industry that marginalized musicians have to navigate, be it creepy guys at parties or gatekeeper label bros. But it doesn’t dwell on those barriers either, soon reverting to upbeat vibes to match the sun-kissed surroundings. The songs themselves, whether the dark, somber beats of Infuriata or the bittersweet closing track Thanks with its chorus line “We’re not OK, and that’s alright,” reflect the mood of this virtual band’s generation.
Paced after the average Netflix series, each episode culminates in a playable music video that feels insignificant compared to the gripping arcade thrills of music games like Sayonara Wild Hearts. Text conversations provide time for introspection and decision making as you can choose how to respond to them. Whichever answer you choose, you’ll end up with the same goal, as this isn’t a game of varying endings and outcomes based on how you play. If you’re not convinced that text messaging can make for good narrative drama, wait for a revelation to accidentally enter the group chat, resulting in the series’ most tense exchange.
The stakes in releasing an EP might seem small, and this is a virtual band who can apparently afford spacious apartments while they do so (an early conversation about the need to pay rent is just as quickly forgotten). . But because we get to know the members of OFK intimately, it’s hard not to have invested in their dreams, their music and whatever comes next when you’ve finished their genesis.