View Finder: Barlow goes to war with interactive storytelling

Brodie Fogg 12 February 2018 NEWS


Her Story creator is rebooting WarGames with an interactive TV show about hacking and more details on Disney's streaming platform emerge.

Sam Barlow likes to do interactive storytelling a little different each time he has a crack at it. Where studios like Telltale Games and Dontnod opt for choice-driven branching narratives (and do a great job at it), Barlow prefers more abstract choices; which lead to follow, which memory to dredge up, which fear to face. These are rarely directly presented to the player as an a, b or c choice, instead, outcomes are influenced by how the player engages with the game.

Barlow first gained attention for his 1999 text adventure, Aisle. An adventure that's only as long as you make it (you can play it here for free). Starting with a simple scene in a supermarket aisle with a trolley, a random brunette, and a significant pack of gnocchi, the player is encouraged to trial a vast library of text prompts to push the story forward and fill out the world. As you go on, new information inspires new text prompts and so on and so on. Aisle is a game about memories.

The second Sam Barlow game I played was Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, a unique take on the iconic series where combat has been totally removed and the world is built based on a psych evaluation administered to the player in-game. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories held a mirror up the player.


Her Story

Barlow's most recent outing was the BAFTA award-winning Her Story, an interactive full motion video (FMV) narrative where the player must use a police database to discover the location of a missing man and detangle a web of lies, omissions and red herrings.Her Story is a game about listening.

Over the weekend, Sam Barlow's latest project was announced: A reboot of the 1983's WarGames. In a chat with Verge, Barlow revealed the project which will be created for the interactive storytelling platform Eko. The upcoming interactive TV show will take a leaf from Her Story and have the player interact purely through computer screens. Where WarGames differs is that there will be multiple videos all streaming at once, forcing the player to choose which display they monitor. The game takes note of these choices and viewing behaviours and tailors the story going forward. A game about watching and being watched.

An especially interesting choice for entertainment in 2018, considering the home surveillance paranoia surrounding the rise of home assistants like Google Home and Apple Homepod.

You'll notice from the short trailer a lack of a young and chipper Matthew Broderick. While he's not present in this modernised WarGames, Barlow is still drawing inspiration from his performance. Barlow says one thing that stuck with him from the original was Matthew Broderick's "charisma", "humour" and "positive naive" outlook. With that in mind, Barlow isn't looking to recreate the darkness of Mr. Robot or the technofear of Black Mirror but rather have some fun with the world of hacking.

To avoid becoming the 2018 equivalent of 1995's Hackers (HACK THE PLANET), Barlow and the team hired consultants to run similar hacking scenarios written into WarGames to test their legitimacy. A smart move considering Mr. Robot is often commended for its accuracy and realistic portrayal of hacking and is bound to be the benchmark for WarGames to match if it wants to be taken seriously.

Little else is known about the interactive TV show, except that it is coming in 2018 to Eko. I'm looking forward to playing a game with these crazy hacker kids because history shows that Sam Barlow is a man to be trusted, even if his characters aren't.

Disney's streaming service further detailed

Deadline has caught wind of Disney's dealings for its upcoming OTT streaming platform. As previously suggested, Disney's plan for its proprietary streaming service is to keep it family friendly, with all adult-orientated content (like R-rated flicks) to be sent over to Hulu. This family focus also means the more violent Marvel joints currently doing the rounds on Netflix will stay where they are for the foreseeable future. Great news for fans of Daredevil, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones but I wouldn't expect much expansion for Marvel and Netflix, rather a continuation of what's already there.


Disney aims to produce four to five original movies and five TV series for the streaming service in its first year, with a loose budget of USD$25 million to USD$100 million for especially high-end ideas. The budget will provide for 10-episode seasons in either case.

Here's a list of potential movie productions Deadline's sources was privy to:

  • Don Quixote from a Billy Ray script
  • Lady and the Tramp
  • The Paper Magician
  • Stargirl, directed by Julia Hart (Miss Stevens, The Keeping Room)
  • Togo, directed by Ericson Core (Fast and the Furious, Point Break (2015)
  • Magic Camp (in post-production)
  • Noelle, directed by Martin Lawrence, starring Anna Kendrick and Bill Hader
  • 3 Men and a Baby (priority)
  • Sword and the Stone (priority)
  • Timmy Failure (priority)

And on the TV show side, we should be seeing these at launch:

  • High School Musical TV series
  • Monsters Inc. TV series
  • Marvel live-action title
  • Star Wars-branded title

While whoever is calling the shots on the movie side of things seems a tad out of touch (though I'll definitely watch a new Sword and the Stone), there's a lot to get excited for in the television series department. Those four prospects will each sell the service to a different crowd of folks on day dot.

Here's hoping the house of mouse can reach the bar set by Netflix for Marvel TV series and give us a quality live-action (fingers crossed) Star Wars to rival the increasingly magnificent Star Trek Discovery.

Trailer Park

Here are the most notable trailers from the week in streaming.

Jonesin for more Jessica

Truth told, out of all the Marvel series on Netflix I've only ever completed the first seasons of Daredevil and Jessica Jones and I'm still undecided on which I enjoyed more.

In the first trailer for Jessica Jones Season 2, we get a hint of Rachael Taylor's Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat taking on the sidekick mantle, a further tease of Jessica's mysterious past and a possible return for Tennant's villainous Purple Man.

Now, (SPOILER ALERT) you know just as well as I do that Kilgrave nearly had his head popped off like a stubborn pickle jar lid so there's little chance of having his character return for real, in the flesh. My best guess is that Tennant 's Purple Man has taken up residence in Jessica's conscience to posthumously torment our boozy hero.

Hard Sun and harder cops

This tense trailer paints a high-stakes thriller that melds post-apocalyptic themes with routine cop drama. I've had a soft spot for Jim Sturgess since the Beatles tribute musical Across the Universe and have been waiting for something to replace True Detective since 2014.

Looking for something to stream this week? Check out what's new on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Stan in February.

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