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Today's newsletter is 813 words — a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: Mayoral media blitz

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and U.S. Rep. Jesús "Chuy" García appear together in late 2022. Photo: Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

👋 Hi, it's Justin! With so many candidates vying to be the next mayor of Chicago (nine), it's important for their campaigns to break through with media messaging.

Why it matters: Mayoral candidates are using several media platforms to get their word out to voters.

  • Whom they reach and how they reach them could make a candidate's campaign, as only about 32% of Chicago voters typically cast ballots in municipal elections.

Candidates' strategies include:

Lori Lightfoot: The mayor has jumped out in front of the pack with several television/streaming ads, including an old-fashioned attack ad against opponent Rep. Jesús "Chuy" García.

  • Other ads show the mayor doing comedy, choking back tears and casting her opponents as puppets.
  • But the attack ad takes a worn page from the Illinois GOP playbook by targeting Garcia's past ties with indicted former House speaker Michael Madigan. Yawn. Sure, Madigan has become the symbol for general corruption, but it's surprising to see an incumbent Democratic mayor use Republican ad tropes.

Paul Vallas: The former CPS CEO has been running TV ads mostly focused on violence and crime.

  • Pretty straightforward, with messages about adding police and making the streets safer, it works.

Brandon Johnson: The Cook County commissioner got some big contributions from the Chicago Teachers Union, so it's not surprising to see him prioritizing improving public schools.

  • Johnson has the best slogan of the race so far: "Brandon is Better."

Ja'Mal Green: The young activist makes the most of limited funds by effectively using TikTok and Instagram to spread his message. He may be the first candidate in city history to rap his agenda.

  • Green's worth a follow just for the creative ways he's using his social media feeds.

2. Film spotlights our video game history

Courtesy of Josh Tsui.

In the early 1990s, Chicago reigned as a center of the video game world, cranking out games in local studios and testing them on teens in Lake View and Rogers Park arcades.

  • Director and veteran game designer Josh Tsui tells this story in the new documentary "Insert Coin," showing at the Music Box Theatre tomorrow night followed by a Q&A with Tsui.

What's happening: We recently sat down with Tsui, who majored in film before designing video games (including Mortal Kombat) for decades in Chicago.

  • His film explores how mega-popular games were hatched here by colorful characters who brought in actors, athletes and even Aerosmith to create them.
Guy in judo costume
Chicago video game designers spent hours filming athletes and actors to create characters for games like Mortal Kombat. Courtesy of Josh Tsui.

The inspiration: "I always had that itch (or midlife crisis) to at least get one film under my belt," Tsui tells Axios.

  • "And for my first go around I really wanted to get into what I lived through in the early '90s in game development. … I was an eyewitness to history as it was happening."

Biggest surprise: "How open all my old co-workers were in the interviews, especially the former CEO of [Midway Games] … who felt his teams should compete against each other — like 'Glengarry Glen Ross' but with a bunch of geeks," says Tsui, who is now DePaul University's Director of Innovation.

The hope: To show "how the games were made but also the business side. These games were designed to suck in your quarters every 45 seconds, and their tricks to monetize have evolved into mobile games and even in e-commerce with dynamic price adjustments."

  • "These games were masterclasses of how design and commerce co-mingle to create products."

If you go: "Insert Coin" plays at 7pm tomorrow at the Music Box Theatre.

3. Tips and hot links

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

😡 Mayor Lightfoot was on the attack during this weekend's mayoral forums. (Sun-Times)

⚾️ Baseball's AAA minor league system is getting robot umpires this year. (Axios Sports)

📺 FX's "The Bear" is returning for season 2 this summer. (Tribune)

4. Your favorite Asian noodles

Dan dan noodles FTW. Photo: Justin Kaufmann/Axios

We recently asked for your favorite Asian noodles to celebrate this week's Lunar New Year.

  • Monica got her jajangmyeon (black bean noodles) from Twin Dragon in Niles, and Justin went all in on the dan dan noodles from Chef's Special.

Your great recommendations for the best Asian noodles in town:

Theresa M.: "Szechuan JMC on Cermak has a delicious dan dan mien. DaMao Jia on Halsted has a unique Szechuan street food dish called Chengdu hot and sour fern root noodles — so yummy!"

Halle M.: "The cold noodles from West Town gem Lao Peng You are so savory and delicious!"

Chris L.: "My favorite noodle dish is the seafood jjampong noodle soup at Shang Noodle in the South Loop. Full of seafood and the broth has a nice kick. $19.00 but I usually get 2 meals out of it, so it is very cost effective."

More noodles

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5. Where in the world is … Monica?

Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Can you guess where Monica is this week? Here's a hint:

  • North of the county that Chicago calls home
  • It honors a beast that likes a nice roam
  • With 5.5 miles of trails for cool hikes
  • It also has creeks and smooth paths for your bikes

📫 Guess correctly, and you could be eligible for Axios swag!

This newsletter was edited by Everett Cook and copy edited by Rob Reinalda and Keely Bastow.

Our picks:

😋 Monica is excited to hear a podcast about how her old pal Kevin Pang tried to make the world's greatest Italian beef in Northfield, Illinois.

😡 Justin is watching the third season of "Emily in Paris" and wondering why the writers hate on Chicago so much. We get it, deep-dish pizza sucks. But nobody asked you.

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