If you somehow don’t already know about Handforth Parish Council, then it brings me great pleasure to be the one to bring you up to speed. The story is this: in the UK county of Cheshire, there is a place called Handforth, whose local governing body has gone completely berserk. It seems a man named Brian is doing his level best to elevate himself to the status of a tyrant in this village of 6,000 people, and has chosen to pursue this ambition from his seat as chairman of the parish council.
The whole story plays out so elegantly, in this YouTube upload of a meeting from last month, that it’s staggering to remember it wasn’t scripted. All of human life is here: there’s roaring, there’s banishments, there’s an impassioned paraphrasing of Gandalf, and there’s a bit where a man loses his mind and growl-hisses “we’re trying to have a Teams meeting you fool” to someone off-camera. There are even accidental opening credits. If you’ve not watched it yet, drop everything and do so, and then I will tell you how this remarkable story should be adapted for the world of videogames.
(above is an edited highlights reel but the full hour-and-a-bit long video is available here, and it is from here that I sourced the images below.)
A Return Of The Obra Dinn-style mystery-unravelling game
At the start of the Handforth Parish Council meeting video, it’s unclear exactly what has happened - only that people are extremely upset about it. The plot is delivered in perfect, retrospective packages over the eighty minutes of footage, however, and what’s staggering is how many of the clues turn out to have been hidden in plain sight all along. The text over Brian’s webcam footage, identifying him as the parish council’s Clerk, seems so unobtrusive at first, but turns out to be pivotal. It all feels like great fodder for a mystery game, and there’s even a baked-in protagonist in the form of Jackie Weaver, an outsider to the council who has been sent there to get to the bottom of the chaos. She becomes Brian’s chief adversary in the video, and is widely considered to be the “hero” of the story, so it seems right that she should be the player character, too.
A piece of Crusader Kings 3 DLC
After watching the Handforth Parish Council video, it genuinely feels like you’ve just watched a game of Crusader Kings 3 play out in real time. In fact, the events depicted would make more sense in the context of the game than they do in real life - Brian’s monumental thirst for power, and his utterly brazen ruthlessness in trying to hold onto it, seem more appropriate to the continent-shaking scale of the Holy Roman Empire, than they do to a subcommittee of a municipal council. In fact, Brian’s actions make a lot more sense when you imagine that he’s being controlled by a CK3 player, enjoying the classic playstyle of “find the lowliest character you possibly can, and then do whatever it takes to ascend the ranks of power”.
An Ace Attorney-esque courtroom game.
One of the most memorable supporting characters in HPC: Endgame is Aled Brewerton, a self-employed solicitor and private investigator who acts as Brian’s main acolyte in the developing conflict. He’s reminiscent of Grima Wormtongue off of Lord Of The Rings in his fervent support for Brian/Saruman, and one of the greatest moments in the meeting comes about when he starts barking about Subpoenas for reasons that possibly only make sense within the context of his own mind. I’ve not actually played an Ace Attorney game, but my understanding is that they boil down to shouting the word “objection” in a way that loosely corresponds to actual courtroom practice, and that seems very much an Aleddian sort of thing to do.
An arcade 1v1 fighting game
No genre of game sums up the essence of personal human conflict more directly than your good old time-tested arcade fighting game, and I’m struggling to think of a reason why the format wouldn’t lend itself to the Handforth Parish Council Cinematic Universe. You need a roster of eight characters at least to give players some variety, and that’s exactly what HPC provides - especially if you become a superfan, as my partner and I have done, and begin watching older episodes of meetings. You’ve got Jackie and Brian and Aled of course. Then you’ve got the incredibly sinister bloke who sits on Aled’s sofa, roaring with laughter like an ogre who’s just eaten a whole church congregation, and the faintly wizardly man with a pointed goatee and guitars hanging behind him. Round out the roster with the terse mayor Barry in his cupboard full of paintings, the forlorn, stalwart Cyn, and the stoic figure of John Smith, and you’ve one heck of a stew going.