After the already extraordinary His own story And By telling liesgame creator Sam Barlow signs with immortality his masterpiece, a pinnacle form of the FMV genre (investigative game based on live action video sequences).
In the early 90’s, FMV games, for Full motion video, were the favorite weapon of some gaming machines that wanted to demonstrate their technological avant-garde. Partially or wholly made up of live-action video sequences, these games were made possible by the emergence of optical disc media and the considerable storage space they offered compared to venerable cartridges and other floppy disks.
At a time when the very idea of ”realistic” real-time 3D imaging was still just a sweet dream in the minds of the enlightened few, it was one of the few ways to harness the capabilities of display hardware. simultaneously, but also to produce “CD quality” sounds. It was also the only way to present minimal human characters embodied in a game.
Of course, the exercise on the other hand left very little freedom to developers in terms of interactivity and game. This type of game then ended up disappearing from radar as quickly as it appeared, or almost. Some video game artisans have continued to explore the genre, designing narrative experiences unlike any other. Today, the most famous and admired of these craftsmen is the British Sam Barlow. Already author of the brilliants His own story (2015) and By telling lies (2019), just launched with immortality a title that seems to be the culmination of his work.
A dizzying narrative structure
immortality confronts the player with the mystery of Marissa Marcel, a film actress who, at the dawn of her career in the late 1960s, was said to have a great future. However, 25 years and three films later, she is still unknown to the public. And for good reason: none of these three films ever hit screens.
Who is he really, what secret is he hiding? To find the answer to these questions, we are armed with a Moviola (a portable editing machine widely used on film sets in the middle of the last century) and a large contingent of reels taken from these unfinished feature films, but also rehearsal sessions, casting and even home movies. Through the links that are found between multiple sequences (a decorative object, a character, etc.), the game allows us to navigate through this corpus at our leisure, try to understand how they fit together and finally deduce the end of the story. – which will never be told to us explicitly.
Under this ingenious dressing, immortality unfolds a narrative structure of dizzying richness and complexity. The game not only testifies to his love for cinema thanks to the astonishing plastic quality of its filmed sequences, but it is also a dizzying mise-en-abîme of the process of cinematographic creation itself.
Unfortunately it is impossible to illustrate this statement perfectly clearly, at the risk of revealing a little too much about the plot of the game, the wars of power that can take place on a set, questions the ability of a film work to carry a message. totally mastered by its creators. It is not even a coincidence that the game itself, in the way we explained above, assumes that it contains a statement left entirely open to the player’s interpretation.
Dangerous but fascinating irreducible
In this way, immortality risks leaving part of his audience by the wayside. Her extreme cerebrality can pass for snobbery, her hardness to die for a frustrating hermeticism. But in the end it is still his power of charm, his poisonous charm that prevails.