Where did Luc start? Point and click adventure Norco, protagonist Kay throws his phone at the Rio Grande. Minutes earlier, we witness conversations with her brother Blake, who calls Kay with desperate updates about their mother’s cancer symptoms. As we learn about these calls, the outlines of two crudely drawn scowling faces light up in the shadows of Kay and her brother over a video chat. By throwing away her phone, Kay separates herself from her childhood spent amid “cruel rituals” in a town exploited by the local oil industry. NorcoThe characters’ characters have a complicated relationship with the past, and it’s wrapped up perfectly through a parasitic relationship with their phone.
Norco switch between Kay’s point of view and that of her mother, Catherine. Catherine’s timeline includes the weeks before her death and her misdeeds using an employee gig app called “QuackJob” that she downloaded to pay a bunch of bills. healthcare is growing. This app allows Catherine to work for a company called Superduck and take on various quests (basically fetch quests) to earn a fake digital currency called “$QCK”. When Catherine arrives at a warehouse to perform one of her Superduck missions, she meets the character behind the company. It was not Chad of Patagonia but a gigantic monstrous bird with a web of flesh writhing beneath its wings. This is where we learn that Superduck is a technology and plant-borne virus.
While Catherine’s involvement with this gig was ultimately what set her on a dark path, her phone was also her main tool in getting her through the world. She travels by sharing on a small account $40 or so. She uses her phone to uncover secret statues hidden in augmented reality and unlock new areas. In another, using her phone sparingly allows her to document and expose hypocrisy in a cult. But in the end, it all comes down to Superduck.
Exploring the town of Norco reveals a world filled with people struggling to make ends meet. At one point, if you talk to a tall figure hunched over a car, the character tells you they started driving for a car-sharing company, but things didn’t go so well. because they were worried about their grandfather’s car breaking down. Catherine’s friend Dallas describes how he switched from Craigslist to Superduck to make money, but in reality, he just wanted to spend more time with his family than working through the night.
The phone is often touted as the perfect tool to stay in touch with the real people we love, but Norco paints a more realistic picture of our contemporary relationships with these devices. When Catherine texted Kay, she received no response from her daughter. What we saw instead was a steady stream of notifications from a collection agency about her medical bills. While phones can be used to maintain and strengthen relationships, they are also understood as a means to extract further value from their users. NorcoThe description of that dichotomy is a harsh one, but an honest one; it illustrates how the telephone can become a useful tool to exploit the disadvantaged and the poor. And after all that, I thought I’d throw my phone at the Rio Grande, too.