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Live action might have a greater part of the future of video game stories

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As video game stories become deeper, more engaging, and more cinematic, some game developers think they’ve found a way to immerse players further into games: By blending live-action footage of actors with the in-game mechanics. Jack Attridge spoke at today’s GamesBeat Summit Next about how this combination could change immersive storytelling in games.

Attridge is the creative director and cofounder of Flavourworks, which is best known for blending live-action into its games. It’s currently working on the anthology series Hush. One of the hallmarks of Flavourworks’ games is the use of touch-based mobile gameplay to help the player interact with the world without the traditional in-game interface.

As Attridge points out, the use of live-action footage in video games has something of a checkered reputation. He invokes the image of Night Trap, an infamous full-motion video game that was widely derided at the time for its low-grade visuals and gameplay. One might argue that Night Trap’s use of live-action made it a little too immersive, as a Congressional hearing was held over whether the game was too violent.

However, Attridge says the evolution of technology has made live-action blending less jarring and more engaging when used correctly: “To be able to wipe the tear from someone’s cheek is a really powerful way of immersing a player into a world.”

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Flavourworks showed footage of Crane, the first game in the Hush anthology, to demonstrate its points about how live-action and the lack of a non-diegetic game interface can help make the player feel closer to the protagonist and more involved in their choices.

“In a film, they say ‘show don’t tell,’ but at Flavourworks we say ‘play, don’t show.’ Rather than click dialogue choice boxes, we let the player express themselves physically.”

When Dean played Crane, he noted that: “The finger movements are meant to blur the line between a passive live-action film and active video game mechanics.” Flavourworks’ games use this Touch Video technology to involve the player in the game without having to use the medium of an interface or a controller.

Attridge went on to say that the future of the medium sees potential crossover between video games and other mediums, using this Touch Video tech. Examples he gave include TV series with interactive crossover (similar to Netflix’s Bandersnatch), dual-screen experiences, and expansions into the metaverse. The developer also raised $3.8 million in 2019 with the aim of making more games like this.

As Attridge puts it: “We believe this is a third viable category between film and games, just like a tablet is between a phone and a computer.”

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