EPISODIC GAMING SHOULD GIVE ME NEW EXPERIENCES I CAN’T GET ELSEWHERE, NOT CONTENT CHURN.
Experiment with forms, themes, mechanics, or anything at all to keep us hooked
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.
ART OF DARKNESS
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.