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Screenshot: Napas Torteeka

A newly revealed PC game called “Whatever” will give players a rough approximation of what it’s like to steer a container ship through a tight canal, a half year after its inspiration, the Ever Given, got unstuck from the Suez.

Why it matters: For all the thousands of video games that are made each year, it’s rare that one is based, however loosely, on the news.

  • Any good game like that takes time, because games, like large container ships, are difficult to steer to completion.
  • For context: a blockbuster 2011 PlayStation game inspired by 2005’s Hurricane Katrina felt unusually timely.
  • And when a major game released this April referred to a “redneck mob storming D.C.,” its creators said that could only be a coincidence, given production timelines.

The details: “Whatever” is a small indie game. It’s coming from 36-year-old Bangkok-based amateur game developer Napas “Jet” Torteeka, who told Axios over Discord that he last made a game 15 years ago.

  • In March, he was tinkering with some game development tools while looking for an idea, when he opened up Facebook and saw the news about the Ever Given.
  • “I just wondered: How could that be possible!?” he said. “What were the captain and the crew doing to get it stuck that way?”
  • He got to work making a prototype of a game in which you steer a ship through narrow, winding passages.

Gaming projects about the Ever Given have been infrequent so far.

  • In late March, a player modified “Microsoft Flight Simulator” so users could fly over the stuck ship.
  • In the spring, the developer of a game called “Panama Canal Simulator” swiftly released a variation called “Suez Canal Simulator” and in July added the Ever Given to it for players to pilot.

The big picture: The slowness of game development is one obstacle limiting the creation of games tied to the news. The will to “go there,” especially with politically fraught topics, is a factor too.

  • For decades, the industry turned out big-budget, flag-waving war games largely about World War II before finally — and only briefly —focusing any on the more fraught Vietnam War.
  • Even if developers are ready, platform holders can be restrictive, as one indie creator found in 2014 when Apple initially blocked his pro-Palestinian game.

What’s next: Torteeka is releasing an “early access” version of “Whatever” in late September.

  • He hopes players will find his game revelatory. It is cartoonish but designed to simulate the feeling of steering a heavy object while fighting inertia.
  • “When I first played my prototype,” he said, “I knew how amazing every cargo ship captain is.”

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Japanese gaming giant Konami at a crossroads

Image: Konami Digital Entertainment

Some unusual new game releases from Konami highlight the strange state of one of gaming's most legendary companies.

Why it matters: Konami was once as revered as Capcom, Sega, Square, Nintendo and other Japanese game-makers, but it has drifted into other businesses and lost the confidence of many players, particularly in the West, who are no longer quite clear what it stands for.

Stock buybacks boom as corporate cash piles grow

The Delta variant is keeping more companies cautious about how to invest the mountains of cash they have at their disposal. That hesitancy has led, in part, to corporate spending on stock buybacks outpacing capital expenditures this year. 

Why it matters: Companies hoarded cash and raised prices over the past year — leaving them with a lot of money and decisions about what to do with it.

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Health policies at stake in Democrats' infrastructure bet

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Democrats are at a pivotal moment in their quest to expand health care coverage, slash the cost of prescription drugs and create a social structure that prioritizes people's health.

Driving the news: Democrats have a clear list of health care priorities they'll be fighting for this week. Among them is a measure to expand Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing benefits.