There is a special place in my heart for FMV (Full Motion Video) games. Maybe it has something to do with the mysterious talking Red and Blue books in Myst (which were subsequently replaced by CGI in a Lucas-esque revision for the remasters.) Or it could be the ultra-campy performance by the great Tim Curry in Red Alert 3 as a Russian military officer dead set on SPACE. Or maybe it’s just that I find the mixture of mediums as something both fun and impressive.
With significant technological changes since the 90s, high-quality film production has become something you can do in your basement or backyard. Unlike the classic Night Trap, it no longer requires the constraints of large production crews. So it is unsurprising to see FMV games making a rally with titles like Late Shift, Her Story, SIMULACRA, and now the hilarious and dark Not for Broadcast.
After a year in Early Access, the full release date of Not for Broadcast lands on January 25th, 2022. In it, you play as Alex Winston, the National Nightly News broadcast engineer. You pick camera angles, headlines, and commercials as the country changes. It’s a decision-based FMV game where the story changes with your choices.
Not For Broadcast is a satirical commentary on the current state of media and the relationship between news media, government control, and the line between news and entertainment. You choose what is and what is not shown on TV — picking the right (or wrong) camera angle. The right shots receive more viewership. The better the show, the more money you walk home with at the end of your shift. You do this all while maintaining a nickelodeon of bells and whistles. You balance the power connection, stabilize the feed, censor bad audio and avoid electrical surges.
I mean this in the best possible way: this game feels like the theater kids were set loose in the computer science room. Bursting with creativity, the actors go through several television scenarios, including awkward interviews, trivia sessions, musical renditions, and hokey sports broadcasts. It turns a mundane task of simply switching from camera angles A to B into a series of moving puzzles that the player must adjust to actively.
You could, of course, bomb on purpose and resist the propaganda machine or enjoy the Story Mode for laughs at what a terrible TV show you can make.
The cast hilariously portrays offscreen disinterest, rolling their eyes, eating sandwiches, and looking outright bored, awkward, and disdainful. There are also a series of subplots about their personal lives and working conditions. You can listen to them argue over earpieces seconds before counting down to the live broadcast.
Between the zany news briefs and outrageous commercials satirizing our world with fringe characters like ‘Alan James’ and situations like digging through the earth’s core are segments of text-based decision-making with an unsettling vibe. These sections perfectly juxtapose the satirical FMV taking place while at your job. Chapters of decisions made at home perfectly illustrate the creeping of the Leviathan and how an authoritarian government can slowly wrap its tentacles around all facets of our life. Aided by unsettling music and paragraphs of text, the game comes to a screeching slowdown as the player makes social choices with unclear outcomes.
Unabashed in its attempt to mock our world, Not For Broadcast accomplishes its satirical efforts. Comedy has the power to exaggerate the truth and shake our brains around like oversized magic eight-balls and to see a new perspective. With comedy as a pool cue, Not For Broadcast is an entertaining cautionary tale of truth and deception that tinyBuild Games bank-shots into the corner pocket.
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