IndieHangover was recently at Play NYC on August 19th and 20th. This was the first year of Play NYC a two day games focused convention put on by Playcrafting. We’ve got a host of new indie games to spotlight over the next week or two, so make sure to stay tuned!
You don’t always find what you were expecting at conventions, and sometimes, it’s the thing you don’t expect that impresses you the most, or leaves the largest impression on you.
Otis is somewhere between a game, an interactive narrative and a movie. Being created by Casey Stein, Bernard Zeiger, Dustin Grant and Neil Sanjay Singh, Otis tells the story of a crime gone wrong from three different perspectives…simultaneously.
Here’s how it works mechanically: You begin Episode 1 of Otis in the perspective of The Babysitter (played by Becca Zeiger). Quickly you presented with a prompt telling you that you can prss “A”, “S” or “D” at any time to change perspectives. The Babysitter is perspective “A”. Perspective “S” is The Homeowner (played by Lance Marshall), and Perspective “D” is The Invader (played by Ryan McCabe). The perspectives all intersect and criss-cross throughout the ~8 minute long Episode 1, (which you can play now here!) and do a fantastic job of creating tension.
I know that there are going to be readers saying “Wait, this isn’t a game?!”, and I’m not sure I’d say you’re wrong. There’s very little interaction between the watcher and the film beyond the ability to switch perspectives, and there’s no limit of the ability to switch perspectives. But there is incredible potential here. I think that borrowing something from games and placing a limit or cooldown on that ability could elevate Otis into something really special. Maybe you can only witch perspective every minute, or only 4 times during an episode. Perhaps adding a perspective “W” that can only be accessed at certain time if you click at the right time in a pseudo-QTE.
Adding significance to the choice to switch perspective, or some drawback to it, would make the entire experience that much more impact.
Currently, it’s pretty easy to get a sense of each perspective by switching rather quickly between the three. Having watched through the short film 4 or 5 times at this point, I’ll say that you really loose some of the films tension and impact by doing this. Limiting the number of times you switch perspective, or limiting how quickly you switch perspectives while you watch enhances the experience incredibly.
It should also be noted that Otis absolutely nails the feeling of dreary small town America. There’s a palpable sense of desperation in each character, each in their own flavor. In talking with Casey and Ben at Play NYC, it’s clear that this is part of there drive in creating this series: to show the disenfranchised side of small town America that often gets ignored of misrepresented in media. While the story they are telling is fictional, it’s drawn from and inspired by reality in a way that makes the entire thing feel very real.
The first episode of Otis is available online to experience for yourself now, but bear in mind that this is more than anything a proof of concept and intent. Still, I believe this is well worth experiencing first hand for yourself, as it’s an incredibly innovative and different way to convey narrative.
A full series using this format is set to be release in 2018.