Quantum Break has received a mixed reception, but it’s only the beginning of studios exploring hybrid media that blurs the lines between games and linear narrative media. In that vein, CBS and Interlude have announced a revival of the classic Twilight Zone anthology series in the form of an interactive film, with the series’s first offering being written and directed by BioShock creator Ken Levine.
Interlude and CBS have described the upcoming project as an “original interactive project” that will let viewers “step in and become a part of the story.” Details remain thin on the particulars of how it will work, but presumably, as in Interlude’s other work, viewers will be able to make decisions at key junctures in the story, causing it to branch off into different outcomes, and encouraging people to re-watch it and make different choices.
“I’ve been a writer my whole life and I haven’t had the chance to direct a live-action thing before,” Levine told Wired. “I’ve done a lot of directing with voice actors, and back when I was younger, I used to direct stage plays. [Bloch] was like, ‘we want to see you carry this thing through from start to finish — write it, direct it.’ And then he said, ‘Twilight Zone.’ What am I going to say? No?”
Although Levine made a name for himself in video games (which should be particularly relevant given their recurring themes questioning personal agency), his background in theater and as a screenwriter positions him particularly well for this sort of experimental project. “Interactivity is a spectrum, it’s not binary,” he says. “I think of it as the viewer’s angle in the chair. When you watch something, you’re sitting back in the chair. When you’re gaming, you’re leaning forward in the chair. This is an interesting place in between … your brain is forward in the chair.”
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“We’ve done a rough outline of what we want to do,” he says, “and now we’re stepping into the writing process, figuring out how to leverage the interactive element to make a narrative tale feel more personal for the viewer, and make [viewers] more engaged.”
Israeli musician Yoni Bloch founded Interlude to develop the technology he wanted for an interactive music video that took inspiration from games. The studio has been developing an impressive portfolio of work, including an interactive music video for Coldplay, and a reboot of the classic film WarGames, for which Interplay just signed on Sam Barlow as Creative Director. The studio was also creator of the interactive film game Her Story which cleaned up at this past year’s IGF Awards at GDC. Interlude also recently hired former CBS executive and head of the Microsoft’s ill-fated Xbox Entertainment Studio Nancy Tellem as its Chief Media Officer.
Levine is meanwhile still hard at work on a narrative-driven sci-fi game, teased earlier this year. There is not yet any word on a production or release schedule for The Twilight Zone.