Sam Barlow’s Immortality presented gamers with an experience that blurred the line between that of traditional gaming and the movies. It proved to be quite the hit as it racked up multiple nominations at this year’s Game Awards, being nominated for categories such as best narrative and best performance. While it may not have walked away with a win, it does show that the industry is taking notice of these types of gaming experiences. Even Elon Musk is a fan – he reached out to the creators to ask if the game could be put into a Tesla. The answer however was a resounding no. Here at Beyond Games, we can’t wait to see what unique gaming experiences come in 2023.
Original story by Paige Cook follows:
Back in August, we saw the release of Sam Barlow’s Immortality game, a title that blurs the lines between video games and movies.
Immortality was released on Xbox and PC with availability through Game Pass, while the developers also stated that they were working on a release for mobile via Netflix games and a Mac version. This is not Barlow’s first attempt at this type of project as previous titles Her Story and Telling Lies had similar themes.
So without getting into spoilers, let’s talk about the game and how it fits into the industry with its unique merge between the two forms of media.
Firstly, some background. Immortality is a mystery game that revolves around the main character Marissa Marcel, played by Manon Gage. During the events of the game, players need to uncover what happened to the actress by scrubbing through various video footage from Marissa’s time shooting three movies and some behind-the-scenes moments. The player can click on objects of interest which then pings you over to a new video.
Sounds simple right? Well, it is – the gameplay mechanics are basic point-and-click with the ability to go backward and forward through various videos… However, there is more than meets the eye in these clips and the mystery deepens as you uncover new elements.
Part of what makes Immortality so unique is the feeling that you are merging the world of gaming and film. It feels much more like playing an interactive movie than it does a linear video game. Although the gameplay itself is simplistic, where Immortality really shines is in its performances. There’s no uncanny valley here, as everything is filmed in the real world with each member of the cast giving authentic performances. This ability to relate to the characters and to be able to see every nuance of expression is part of what keeps the player engaged.
Band of brothers… or sisters
Other similar titles such as Late Shift resemble choice-based video games like TellTale’s Walking Dead. The entire game is captured in full motion just like a movie but throughout the experience, the player is given multiple choices on how to act or what to say, which can result in different outcomes and endings.
The bridge between these two forms of media is one that more people are experimenting with. HBO aired an interactive mini-series called Mosaic which allows viewers to use an app to choose which character you follow or even gain access to story materials such as police reports.
We all remember Netflix’s Black Mirror episode Bandersnatch, right? The episode allowed viewers to interact with the show directly influencing dialogue choices and the actions taken by the main character. Bandersnatch featured five main endings, which means that you could get a totally different outcome from someone else. Some people loved the episode, others not so much but the technical integration of interactivity worked. Bandersnatch was inspired by another media format, books – choose your own story books have been around for years and granted readers the ability to create a story that was no longer a passive linear experience, but an active one.
Most of us have watched a TV show or movie and screamed at the TV when a character is making a terrible decision and then instantly start discussing what that character should have done instead. Well with interactive shows and video games that is exactly the point. No more screaming at your TV as your favourite character makes an awful decision but instead we can shape their stories and be directly responsible for their fate.
What lies ahead?
So where could the future of these types of interactive film video games take us? For a start, there’s great potential for these titles to bridge the gap between TV and video games; those who perhaps do not usually find themselves interested in the gaming world could easily pick up and play a title like this.
Another attempt at ‘transmedia synergy’ was Syfy TV series Defiance, which launched with the intentions of having a video game counterpart that would simultaneously exist alongside the show and influence one another. While this vision was never fully realised as the show and game came to a close, the concept was an interesting one that perhaps was ahead of its time.
In the future could we see another attempt at a TV show that launches with an integrated video game counter part? The decisions and actions you take in game then directly influence the next episode of the show, for example a character who is in your friends show no longer appears in yours after you betrayed them in your version of the game. Or perhaps we will see interactive games that expand their game mechanics past simple point and click features. Maybe we could directly control a characters actions moving them around like we are used to in other video games.
Immortality is just the latest example of a game expanding beyond the traditional sense of what a game is and manages to do so extremely well with its hidden mysteries and impressive performances. But as the world of technology develops and people search to find more immersive experiences, these interactive titles could find themselves on our screens more often, pulling us in with real performances and stories that tug at our natural curiosity.