The Success and Future of Interactive Drama Games

Interactive Drama games have recently been released to massive success, but why aren't their more? Here are a few reasons why we need more of this genre.

The Concept

interactive drama heavy rain
Heavy Rain is one of the leading examples of an Interactive Player Driven drama.

The Interactive Drama genre spans across several different definitions, ranging from point-and-click to zombie survival. They are normally built on a highly cinematic presentation, with a heavy focus on scripting and writing. The stories are immense, epic, and built to keep the player on edge.

Over recent years, several games have been released to further stretch the growing style. Developer Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls were both released to success, to an extent, because of their written journeys and characters. Multiple endings and player driven decisions with a gripping storyline made them equally replay-able as any other game on the market.

This trend has moved further with the Telltale releases of The Walking Dead and most recently Game of Thrones, where point and click gameplay synchronizes with cinematic graphics. The concept of Interactive Dramas is extremely ambitious and aims to tell an emotional and dramatic story.

With the latest release of Life Is Strange, from Dontnod Entertainment, this genre looks to continue into this year with Until Dawn being released soon.

The Appeal

interactive drama life is strange
Life Is Strange focuses heavily on characterization and story.

Quantic Dream took player-driven decisions to a whole new level in Heavy Rain. There was no set protagonist, no set ending, and decisions would kill off a main character with no mercy. The game would continue, adapting to the decisions players made and finish off with a different ending each time. Similarly, this concept was brought into Beyond Two Souls, just on a lesser scale.

The epic storylines of Interactive Dramas draw a player in because they have control. Players can change the plot of a real-time movie unfolding in front of them, and that is a surreal concept. Gripping, suspenseful and sporadic, the story is a major focus in this genre.

Critical stories and cinematic presentation anchor the Interactive Drama category, and to no surprise. These powerful features were key in successes like The Last of Us, reminding us that the Interactive Drama pulls from some of the strongest tools in game design. While not an official member of the Interactive Drama category, The Last of Us carries many qualities of the genre, showcasing the growing relationship between cinematic graphics and storyline. Minimal HUD and intense situations force players to think fast and live with their decisions. Characters become memorable, the tale grows emotional, and the incredible drama continues to pull in masses to play. The mainstays of the Interactive Drama style are growing in popularity across genres, another reason to look out for this up-and-coming form.

The Future of the Genre

the walking dead interactive drama clementine

There has been varying success within the genre of Interactive Drama. LA Noire, Testament of Sherlock Holmes, and even Alan Wake are often forgotten releases from the past few years, despite having many of the popular features mentioned previously. With a game depending almost entirely on interesting characters and storyline, an extremely thin line rests between a critical success and a silent release.

With so many popular genres and games released yearly, it’s difficult to see where Interactive Dramas can find room to flourish. Happily, Life Is Strange recently saw a fantastic release, offering a breath of fresh air compared to the less than enthralling debuts of early 2015. But the question remains, where does the genre go from here?

On one hand, many Interactive Dramas never see a sequel, as the games end so powerfully or variably that picking up the story again is near to impossible. Heavy Rain has been confirmed to end with the first title, and Beyond Two Souls seems to be taking the same route. These franchises live and close quickly, and considering the time required to create such fleshed out titles, it is difficult for the Interactive Drama genre to conform to yearly release.

On the other hand rests developers. Developers that have begun to take the risk, releasing something brand new and unique in hopes that a captivated audience will form. With strong techniques, alongside the passion of developers and fans, the world is poised see this corner of gaming grow even further in the upcoming months.

If you’re curious about this growing genre, have a look at our article about Life Is Strange and see why it is destined for greatness.

About the author

Chris Jecks

Chris is the Managing Editor of Twinfinite. Chris has been with the site and covering the games media industry for eight years. He typically covers new releases, FIFA, Fortnite and any good shooters for the site, and loves nothing more than a good Pro Clubs session with the lads. Chris has a History degree from the University of Central Lancashire. He spends his days eagerly awaiting the release of BioShock 4.