A Norco native and Destrehan High School alumnus lived out a dream when the video game he created highlighting his hometown, norco, was released to the public and to critical acclaim. Little did he know that was only the beginning.
The game, which has been available for Windows PC and MacOS on Steam, PC Game Pass and GOG.com, has hit the mainstream: it was released as digital download for consoles PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox X/S and Xbox 1 on Oct. 20, giving it far greater exposure and reach for gamers worldwide. It will also be available on Xbox Game Pass.
The world in which gamers can explore is technically an alternate version of the Norco that St. Charles Parish residents are quite familiar with. “Alternate,” in many areas on the game, is close enough to “exact,” and not just in the game’s namesake. The game takes players through some very recognizable areas for locals, like Apple Street and Airline Highway within the game’s namesake, but also areas in New Orleans, Metairie and Kenner – the Esplanade Mall, while not named, stands as a notable landmark in the latter as the “Promenade Mall.”
“People reach out and talk about the landscapes they’re recognizing in the game,” said Yuts, the creator of the Norco game. “It does get rather strange toward the end and it’s pretty interesting to hear them talk about that as well. But it’s a short game. The learning curve is very shallow and I think it’s been kind of a quick and easy way of generating conversation and interaction with people.”
This all started almost 15 years ago. Yuts (a pseudonym he goes by derived from a nickname for his grandfather), now 36, said the genesis actually stems from “a world history project” with a close friend. After Hurricane Katrina, the two were doing archival research about different Louisiana industries. Through that, the two recorded numerous conversations with locals about their lives and the region they live in.
For many St. Charles Parish residents, topics the game tackles will no doubt be relatable. Flooding and environmental precarity are among the issues touched upon.
“For a lot of people, those are things that have affected them pretty deeply,” Yuts said. “People have written some personal responses that are extremely moving. And that’s been something that will stick with me for the rest of my life.”
Norco was released on Steam in March to great praise from game critics. Los Angeles Times called it the best video game released in the early part of 2022, and the game continues to gain momentum as it finds a wider audience. It has earned scores of 9.25 out of 10 from Game Informer and 94 out of 100 by PC Gamer. In 2021, before its formal release, the game won the inaugural Tribeca Games Award at the Tribeca Film Festival. In 2022, Norco won the Long Feature award at the Berlin A MAZE festival.
“We’ve been really appreciative of the reception,” Yuts said. “We’ve been hearing so many good things. It’s a pretty niche genre, but it seems like more and more people have been playing it, more people than I was expecting. And a lot of people from the region have been playing as well, which has been great to hear.”