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Barlow created the stories for a couple of the Silent Hill games, but his best-known work is the interactive movie game Her Story, which won numerous awards in 2015 because it was a novel way to tell a story about a police interrogation of a woman suspected of murder.
In the game, the player had to piece together what happened by searching through a police database of interrogation videos for words that were intriguing. If you searched for the right word, you could unlock a video that could tell you a major piece of the plot.
In other words, the linear story of the video was torn apart and fragmented. You had to put it back together, the same way a police detective would while uncovering a crime. In the case of Her Story, the main subject was a single character, a woman named Hannah Smith, portrayed by Viva Seifert.
But Barlow is weaving a more tangled web this time with Telling Lies, which features a main cast of four and an additional 26 onscreen actors. This game’s video scenes revolve mainly around the actors Logan Marshall-Green (Prometheus), Alexandra Shipp (X-Men: Apocalypse), Kerry Bishé (The Romanoffs), and Angela Sarafyan (Westworld).
Annapurna released a teaser trailer today for Telling Lies, and I interviewed Barlow last week at the Game Developers Conference. We talked about how he wanted to avoid a sequel but stay with the game mechanic of searching through a trove of video to find clues about an intricate story.
His technique has sparked a whole genre, which includes the interactive movie created by Netflix, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, where viewers could choose their own ending.
“It’s becoming more interesting because all of the players in traditional visual storytelling are seeing the world change at this ridiculous pace,” Barlow said in our interview. “Network television, which was the bedrock of advertising, of mainstream storytelling, is slowly dwindling. We now have streaming and the ways it has changed our viewing habits. They’re terrified because they look at kids and see them spending more and more time gaming or on social media. Yes, they’re binging Netflix shows, but the proportions are shifting. The way they navigate media is a world apart.”
In the plot of Telling Lies, a woman gains access to a trove of data collected by the National Security Agency through surveillance of the main characters. As a player, you have to search through the data to piece together a story of what happened, including why the people were under surveillance in the first place. The trailer says players have 96 lies to decipher and one big truth to uncover.
Barlow is dropping a few hints of what it’s about and how the gameplay works, but he wants to preserve some of the mystery for the game, which comes out later this year.
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