Night Book is a linear interactive movie with branching narratives, 15 endings, 220 scenes and a multitude of possibilities with this concept. This storytelling mode has been experimented with in various forms: the oral tradition in general is a real-world antecedent of it, while Tolkien’s The Hobbit employed plot-altering changes within its text. In the present day, Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (a one-off interactive episode of the dystopian sci-fi, one whose possible ending have ensured I still haven’t finished it) and Dream – the Royal Shakespeare Company’s VR adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream – have been notable uses of cutting-edge technology.
The brainchild of Wales Interactive, gaming and interactive movie developers based in Pencoed near Bridgend, initially we are drawn into the narrative through popup CCTV screens, tags and overlapping elements and workable loading menus. I found this very distracting at times, albeit due to my own inability to navigate the technical streaming. The narrative’s linear element felt committed to its purpose, however, and the story unfolded in chapter-like progression.
Loralyn, Night Book’s central female protagonist, is struggling to manage her work/life balance: she has a child on the way, her husband is away on business and her father requires frequent care. She works remotely from home – relatable for many of us at this time, no doubt – interpreting video calls in real time, from English to French and vice versa. It speaks volumes about the way modern women are expected to juggle their time between family and work responsibilities. As an interpreter, this piece is incredibly niche but it is immensely thrilling to watch something with so many choices to meander through.
Brokering a deal between a French businessman and an English bookseller, as Loralyn reads some of the text we begin to realise there is something peculiar happening. A trusted everyday item – a book – is the catalyst for a demon invading the safe space of her home, inviting the audience to suspend their disbelief in the face of the supernatural, and indeed makes us wonder about our own possessions.
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Loralyn finds herself having to decide what is most important: her own mortality, her child’s life, her elderly father or her other half? This decision, much like many others, are something we can change within Night Book. Imagine this control over other people’s lives…
The pandemic has led creatives to adapt to new ways of delivering content, which is part of the inspiration behind Dream. During these times, I’ve found myself needing constant stimulation to keep my anxiety down without grounding or using mindfulness techniques: artistry and theatrical forms are my therapy of choice. With Night Book, the inclusion of the gameplay menu adds to the immersive quality of the movie. Gaming is a means of escapism; Night Book’s multilingual element reflects the diversity of its audience.
Night Book is out now via Wales Interactive. Info and purchase: here. Look out for Buzz’s interview with Night Book’s creators very soon!
words BILLIE INGRAM SOFOKLEOUS