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As mainstream as video games have become, there are still millions of people who do not yet participate in the hobby. These people represent the future growth of the industry, and publishers, developers and platform holders alike are exploring new ways to get them engaged.
Whether it’s Google’s attempts to bring down the barrier to entry with cloud gaming service Stadia, hypercasual mobile developers focusing on accessible game design to get people playing, or Nintendo hoping to recapture the Wii Fit magic with products like Ring Fit Adventure, there are myriad ways of appealing to non-gamers.
But for Caroline Marchal, CEO of UK developer Interior Night, there’s a simpler method: tell them a story.
“I don’t think anyone has watched something like this anywhere – and they certainly haven’t played this”
“Story is a fundamental element of attracting people to play a game,” she says. “We focus 100% on getting a great script with flawed characters that people will find relatable and compelling.”
Marchal and her team aim to demonstrate this with their debut title As Dusk Falls, an interactive drama heading to Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC. The game centres on a conflict at a motel in the Arizona desert, in a story that’s “not about saving the world, but about deep and intimate relationships.”
“We’ve got two families we focus on across 30 years, so it’s got scope and it’s a really original story,” says Marchal. “I don’t think anyone has watched something like this anywhere — and they certainly haven’t played this.
“We confront [the audience] to ask questions about really relatable themes and real-life struggles. Can you break free from a toxic family? Can you start over by moving house or changing jobs? Will all your problems go away? When you have a family, how much of yourself should you sacrifice to meet their needs first? How do you balance your own needs with theirs? All of these are questions and themes that have not been in games before, but are universal and relatable in real life.”
In the above behind-the-scenes documentary, Marchal expresses a desire to bring TV audiences to video games, but there’s a significant difference between the two sectors. Watching television is a passive experience, with audiences simply absorbing the story. Video games require active participation, which means interactivity can be as much of a potential barrier as it can be a selling point.
Marchal says the key to overcoming this is how you manage tension: “You don’t want to have people really uncomfortable playing your game, feeling really stressed out. That’s the thing with TV — your mind is active but you’re safe because you’re not challenged too much with your reflexes or anything.
“With As Dusk Falls, we’re very focused on story first, bringing people into the world and connecting them with the characters. We make sure there’s no barrier. I can tell you more when we’re able