There are no humans or aliens in An Airport for Aliens Currently Run by Dogs (or Dog Airport Game, for brevity's sake), but there are plenty of dogs. Tons of stock photos of man's best friend, to be clear. They're everywhere in this game, standing at attention in different airports across the cosmos, their diverse subjects shown in various poses as they wait to give you a skateboard or a pile of boarding passes or a healthy dose of ennui - free of charge.
Somehow, in Dog Airport Game, both capitalism and humanity have died out, leaving only two humans left to navigate air travel. Those two humans are the unnamed character you inhabit and Krista, their fiancee. This game may feature several airports and hundreds of eccentric dogs whose dialogue will plaster a permanent smile on your face, but its heart lies in the beautiful Black love story at its center, a love that transcends both humanity and the banality of air travel. An Airport for Aliens Currently Run by Dogs is equal parts disarmingly funny and surprisingly touching, and it's the best time you'll ever have while lost in an airport.
Hello, this is dog
Dog Airport Game begins with you and Krista waking up in a cage after being betrayed by the mysterious Cage Dog, who also knocked you unconscious. As you come to, you engage in a disarmingly real conversation with Krista that plays out a lot like how I speak to my long-term partner every day (minus the Cage Dog references). There's a familiarity and realness here that you rarely see depicted in-game relationships, and it's as refreshing as sitting in front of the window AC on a muggy NYC afternoon. Krista quickly tells you to meet her on another planet, as she's off to do a bit of solo travel, and the two exchange 'I love you, weirdos' that will make you "aw shucks".
Then you encounter the hilariously nervous-looking 'Witness Dog' who absolutely didn't see Cage Dog lock you up, and who resorts to reminding you that he's "very small" so you stop questioning him, despite the guilty look plastered on his face. Dog Airport Game only gets more absurd from there, as you and your disembodied hand (which changes every time you pet a dog) make your way through a series of alien airports that are run by dogs, to varying degrees of success.
Your boarding pass is printed in an alien language (humans are gone, remember) and Dog Airport Game takes place in real-time, so if you have a few hours until your flight, you've got some time to wander. When it comes time to board, however, you'll need to make sure you have the necessary items that will get you past the check-in gate. At the first airport, you'll need an unremarkable boarding pass and a passport you get by procuring a bottle of artisanal toilet water for the passport dog, but soon the dogs manning (or dogging?) the gates will require more unconventional items. Bribe Dog takes bribes, obviously, but not every request is so simple.
Every new dog I encounter elicits a genuine giggle, whether it's Gorby, a lab mix running a magic shop who looks very nervous as he sells me an Actual Gun, or a pitbull "pedogstrian" in repose on a yellow couch, picturesque against the vaporwave beach backdrop. For Xalavier Nelson, the game's creator, dogs are "enthusiastic projections of kindness into an uncomplicated world" and Dog Airport Game acts as the screen capturing those projections.
Dog F. Kennedy Airport
At the aforementioned vaporwave airport, I squeal in delight when I discover the moving walkway will actually speed up your travel, remembering the first time I encountered one in an Amsterdam airport and relished zipping past other pedestrians. Despite the uncanniness of the airports in Dog Airport Game, there's still a level of familiarity at work here - vending machines that only have a few products, bathrooms with identical layouts, a disturbing lack of seating.
"I did a lot of flying before we started development of the game (...and a global pandemic landed on our heads," says Nelson in an email.
"So, for Dog Airport Game, I wanted to replicate the experience of becoming a traveler - finding what you need in unfamiliar environments that are nonetheless structured in ways you recognize by sight." And the bizarre timelessness of airports is captured in this game, as well. "Stores in airports open, close, and change position when you enter and leave destinations. Receptionists arrive at a boarding gate roughly 90 minutes before take-off--and if your flight leaves without you, you need to research the timetable, get a new boarding pass, and find a new route to your intended port," explains Nelson.
As I walk through an airport in the Mariana Trench, I see a barricaded storefront and am immediately brought back to the time when my sister and I arrived at Paris' Charles De Gaule airport at 2 am and were greeted with a mostly closed and incredibly eerie airport. We showered in the sink of a baby-changing restroom and slept on the floor until a cafe opened up. Dog Airport Game is a lot more fun than that. During my playthrough, there are multiple moments where I feel like I'm back in the traveling groove, even though I haven't been in an airport for well over a year, and the last time I tried to pet a dog inside of one, I almost got arrested.
While wandering aimlessly through dog-run airports in places like Uranus and the Mariana Trench is a ton of fun, the best part of this game is when you manage to find Krista. Despite all the chaos that comes from layovers in various alien airports, and the tedium that eventually sets in when you realize the vendors at these airports are all the same, Krista's love for you remains a beautiful, shining beacon of light leading you through the game.
Every time you find her at an airport, you'll chat for a bit before she tells you to meet her at another one, and sure enough, she's there, waiting to chat with you about Cage Dog, her top-secret work and, of course, your love. "I knew I liked you. But when we became literally the only humans alive, and you were still trying to win my heart…that's when I knew I loved you," she says while sitting on a bench at airport vaporwave, and I feel my heart grow two sizes larger.
"A lot of stories depicting Black love seem to directly revolve around abuse and trauma," says Nelson. "While these stories can be valid and meaningful, I craved a healthy, supportive relationship starring people who look like me. So, we made one. This is another part of the game I'm very thankful to have had the opportunity to create. It isn't just rare in games - it seems rare to discover, period.
Dog Airport Game offers the kind of wholesome and unadulterated experience that reminds you why video games are so good. Sure, there are fetch quests and some light problem solving, but most of this game is about basking in irreverent dog-related humor and finding the person you love amongst the confusing layout of a foreign airport. Whether you've had to bribe a dog with a meat-flavored chew toy or throw a Grimoire at one to help make it magic, Krista will be waiting for you, leaning up against a railing in an airport that looks like something out of a Y2K Salvador Dali painting.
Nelson's words are the best way to summarize the experience of playing An Airport for Aliens Currently Run By Dogs: "I'm honored to have brought this game to life. Chances to imagine a better world can be rare in video games, and the opportunity to make a game based entirely around joy, for both the people who make it and play it? It's incredibly special."
An Airport for Aliens Currently Run By Dogs is available now for PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.