It has always been the name of his hometown, but now it is also the name of his award-winning work.
Norco, a video game named after and inspired by the east bank St. Charles Parish town, took a top honor in the Tribeca Festival’s first-ever games competition this summer. The Tribeca Games Award is described by the Hollywood Reporter as a recognition that honors an unreleased video game “for its potential for excellence in art and storytelling through design, artistic mastery and highly immersive worlds.”
The game was created by Yutsi, a Norco native and Destrehan High School graduate who now lives in Virginia.
“I’d prefer to use my pen name,” Yutsi said when asked about his birth name. “I don’t take online anonymity too seriously, especially given how many biographical details are included in the game, but it helps compartmentalize different parts of my life.”
Norco the game has a gothic aesthetic and features local spots such as Apple Street, Airline Highway and I-10. It allows users to play out the story of Kay, who journeys through south Louisiana to uncover the mysteries around her mother’s death and her brother’s disappearance.
Yutsi said his hometown was the perfect setting for the story.
“It’s a beautiful, fascinating, complicated and sometimes tragic place,” Yutsi said of the town of Norco. “It’s ringed by swampland and refineries. The sky glows and pulses at night. It’s full of interesting, wonderful people. A lot of the older generation remembers things about Louisiana’s natural history and landscape that are being forgotten.”
Yutsi said he and Aaron Gray, the game’s other developer, never expected their game to win at the Tribeca Festival. Formerly known as the Tribeca Film Festival, the event now celebrates storytelling in a number of forms and mediums.
“We admired many of the titles featured and felt a little bit like imposters,” he said. “We settled into feeling excited and proud, but the imposter syndrome took a couple of days to wear off.”
Yutsi said as a child growing up in St. Charles Parish he dreamed that his hometown would serve as artistic inspiration in his future work.
“I’ve been inspired and fascinated by the River Parishes for as long as I can remember,” he said. “I’ve spent my entire life researching them, drawing and painting them, exploring the swamps and highways and writing about my experiences there. Most of my family still lives in Norco and I’m there regularly to visit them.”
Yutsi said Norco the game is expected to be released in early 2022, and that he hopes people who experience it step away with an appreciation for his hometown.
“I hope they come away with the impression that it’s a complex, beautiful, beloved place,” he said. “The game covers other areas of the metro region, and things get a little strange, surreal and occasionally violent. But the underlying emotion that the game tries to communicate is reverence. I admire my home. I want that admiration to shine through.”