Choose your own adventure was a childhood staple, letting you “live by the sword, die by the papercut,” so to speak, switching through pages to get different outcomes based on how you navigated your hero through their trials. As a concept, it was pretty awesome, but limitations meant that when your story was over.. well, it was over. And it was a book, so images tended to be limited to line drawn illustrations.
Well, a new computer game called Framed takes that concept and adds a comic book multimedia twist. The game was developed by Loveshack Entertainment, an Australian game company, and is designed to challenge the linear element of so many computer games, removing the “beginning”and “end” concept and letting you, the player/reader, decide.
The premise is straightforward, as each scene provides you with a number of sequential comic strips where an action happens. For example, you see seven “comic” sections of a story, and the first read shows a robber grabbing a handbag and then escaping up a ladder. Framed lets you reorder the way you read and play, as you can switch the comic-book sections around to let the victim escape up the ladder as the robber chases him.
Confused? Look at this video - it really helps you grasp the concept.
“When each action is framed by the last, context is everything,” is Framed’s tagline, and this holds true here. For example, a villain might escape up a ladder, or a hero might flee up it. Same comic, different outcome.
But this isn’t just a read and rearrange puzzle game, it’s a mix of comic-noir with narrative. You can keep changing the context to control the outcomes.
Loveshack explained the concept via email.
"Most of the scenes have at least a couple of ways to 'solve' them. Some have more. Each scene is a small part of the overall story, so for instance it might be 'the protagonist used a nearby rubbish bin to dodge a bullet, then jumped up to a fire escape to run quietly over a cop below'. If you'd used the panels in a different order then this micro-narrative would be different - the way the player escaped had changed"
The game is beautiful to look at, with striking scenes that are visually arresting, and there is a full jazz score to accompany it for extra-sensory evocation.
"The entire game, every puzzle and scene, is initially prototyped with pen and paper,” Loveshack said. “We actually draw little stick figures on pieces of paper and shift those pieces around. There are so many parameters we have to account for in each scene that we need to troubleshoot them before we even touch a computer," Loveshack said.
But why does this matter? Yes, it’s clever and unusual and very surprising to look at and play, but why should you care? A game, after all, is meant to be entertaining, and how does Framed add to that dynamic? Well, this is a game for those who like to control situations and challenge storylines. It’s not a shooter, or third person beat em up, but a classic, clever piece of art, literature and puzzle that lets you exercise your creative side as well as your trigger finger.
"Framed is definitely part of a new wave of games that are exploring how the interactive format of gaming can allow for different ways of expressing narrative. The maturation of the medium, and the ever increasing age of the average gamer, means that a lot of gamers are looking for more meaningful and interesting types of games to engage with beyond more 'traditional' forms of gaming," Loveshack told us.
Gaming is growing, and one dimensional views of this space are soo last year. By evolving into a multi-sensory, transitional experiences, gaming can become more immersive and widely appreciated by different audiences.
Check out Framed the Game here. It's scheduled to be available mid-2014 on PC, Mac and iOS, with plans for Android development.