Finally sat down and played through Quantum Break, the daring attempt by Remedy Studios to blend a video game with a live-action television show. It’s a bold idea…play through an act in the game then watch a half hour television program that shows how your actions have affected the characters around you.
I’m not going to dive into the plot itself; there’s plenty online for you to read if you’re into that, I’m more interested in the nature of how they told the story in this multi-media format. This isn’t the first time someone’s tried it, see the show and game which share the name Defiance, but this is the first time I’ve seen it tried this way specifically. You play the game then stop and watch an episode then go back to the game.
It’s a unique experiment but, in my opinion, one that ultimately fails because it waters down the strengths of both mediums. Television shows live around the communities they create, just look at the rise of fan culture, but in Quantum Break the show I watch may differ drastically from the one that you watch based on the choices we make. Not a deal breaker, the comparison could be interesting, but when you add in the fact that your access to the show is gated by your playthrough of the game, it separates audience members even further. It turns the communal celebration of TV into a solo experience.
The strength of video games is your ability to control the action and mold the events (at least to a degree). While Quantum Break tries to carry this out of the game and into the show, I was never quite sure what effect my actions actually had on the events taking place. A decent writer could work things so that all the choices you made eventually led to the same results. I spent most of the game wondering if anything I was doing actually made a difference.
I don’t think this is Remedy’s fault; they did a good job of making this idea work, they were just starting with a handicap. I’m not sure that the scripted television experience can be married to the interactive video game experience so tightly. Defiance's decision to uncouple the stories, the game and show take place in the same world/time but different locations, seems to preserve the individual experiences without making them shallow but is ultimately less exciting.
I love that Remedy took a chance like this, and I’d pick up Quantum Break 2 in an instant…I’m hoping they can build on what they did and show me a solution I haven’t thought of before.