Ex­per­i­ment with forms, themes, me­chan­ics, or any­thing at all to keep us hooked

PlayStation Official Magazine (UK) - - OPINION - Os­car Tay­lor-Kent

At one time episodic games were the hot new thing. By mim­ick­ing the for­mat of TV, de­vel­op­ers could ex­tend the win­dow of a game’s re­lease, iter­ate, and pro­vide fresh con­tent with each in­stal­ment, whether that was new brain-teas­ing cases for Sam & Max to crack, or new har­row­ing events for The Walk­ing Dead char­ac­ters.

At some point, though, this turned into a bloated genre where each episode was much the same as the last, even be­tween dif­fer­ent games. Rote, pre­dictable – the op­po­site of the ex­cit­ing prom­ise they’d ini­tially made. Now, fol­low­ing on from its shakeup of the nar­ra­tive game with Un­til Dawn, Su­per­mas­sive has re­turned to breathe life into the realm of episodic games, where nar­ra­tive is king.


The Dark Pic­tures is the per­fect fol­low-up for a stu­dio which be­came known for its adap­ta­tion of the clas­sic teen hor­ror romp into the gam­ing medium. Where Un­til Dawn fo­cused on one pants-ru­in­ing cabin sleep­over in the woods on a snowy moun­tain, The Dark Pic­tures is go­ing to go through your whole wardrobe like some sort of trouser se­rial killer. Su­per­mas­sive is us­ing the game’s episodic na­ture to make a hor­ror an­thol­ogy se­ries, sneak­ing up to scare you with a stand­alone story each time.

First up is Man Of Medan, where four tourist teens end up get­ting into a bad time at sea, both div­ing, and aboard a WW2 ship. There will be a hu­man threat, but also some­thing su­per­nat­u­ral by the looks of it. Af­ter that, the se­ries could take us any­where, and that’s why it’s so ex­cit­ing. Self-con­tained episodic an­tholo­gies have al­ways made for great TV, and that should trans­late into nar­ra­tive games too. The thrill of hor­ror is the un­known, and the po­ten­tial for an episode to go any­where is per­fect for that – that’s why shows like The Twi­light Zone, Black Mir­ror, and In­side No. 9 are so watch­able.

The last thing we want is for episodic games to grow stale. That’s the death of any TV, and it will be for games. The form isn’t an ex­cuse to just do the same thing over and over again – it’s a fan­tas­tic way to show­case new and ex­cit­ing ideas.

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