If you enjoy live action video games like we do, then you’ll be excited to know that director Paul Raschid is about to return with The Gallery, a brand new blend of hostage thriller and social drama that takes place in 1981 and 2021 starring the likes of George Blagden (Versailles and Vikings); Anna Popplewell (The Chronicles of Narnia) and Rebecca Root (The Queen’s Gambit). It’s set for an April launch on PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox and PlayStation, and will also see a release on OS and Android. We caught up with Paul, who previously directed Five Dates and the Complex, to find out more.
How did you get involved in live action video games?
In 2018, my film ‘White Chamber’ played 10 film festivals like Edinburgh, Sitges, FrightFest and BIFAN, as well as Shauna Macdonald winning the BAFTA Scotland Best Actress. This project put me on the radar of producer John Giwa-Amu who liked what he saw and approached me about directing ‘The Complex’ which was a very similar genre but in the interactive format. Having always had an interest in experimenting with script structure and being a casual gamer, this was a challenge I embraced and set about formulating my own language for interactive storytelling, which was very in-vogue at the time due to the release of ‘Bandersnatch’. Since then, I’ve made 4 interactive projects (3 features and 1 short). ‘The Gallery’ is the first project I am publishing through my own company.
What are some of the films and games that have inspired you personally?
My biggest influence with regard to the live-action video games/interactive films I make was Until Dawn. For me that is the gold standard in high-stakes choice-based game mechanics and perfectly combined gaming and cinema in its style. Outside of that, I’m an RPG fan – the mainstream stuff really – Assassin’s Creed, Kingdom Hearts, Horizon Zero Dawn and I’m still living in hope of a Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance reboot!
How would you explain the resurgence of the live action video subgenre that we’re seeing?
I think the boom in film, TV and gaming content in recent years has created a hunger for different modes of storytelling from gamers and film-watchers alike. These two mediums are trying to cross-over more than ever – with frequent video game adaptations on the film side and more cinematic cutscenes/storytelling on the game side. For me, the live-action video game is the perfect crossroads between the two mediums and I hope the resurgence continues because I truly believe it has a place in the content landscape.
The mid-90s saw a big boom for FMV-based games, where even A-list Hollywood talent got involved. Why aren’t we seeing that right now?
We are still relatively early in the rebirth of the format, so I hope this is something that we will see in the coming years as more projects are released and are hopefully successful! I also suspect higher-profile talent will be more drawn to the format if/when they start being showcased widely on film-facing streaming platforms. Currently they are only really distributed on gaming platforms, with app stores being the only platform that is accessible to non-gamers.
As mainstream entertainment moves more and more towards ‘experiences’ (like escape rooms or 4DX cinema), could you see live action video games become a part of that?
Absolutely! We have already done test cinema screenings of ‘The Gallery’, in which the audience used glow sticks to vote for their choices at every decision point. While simple, the experience was a great success as it created a true communal experience amongst the audience who loved interacting amongst themselves, as well as with the content they were watching. We are subsequently planning to release the project in some cinemas in the UK.
Five Dates and The Complex were very different, thematically speaking – what can we expect from The Gallery?
Being a hostage-thriller, ‘The Gallery’ centres around a battle of wits between your chosen protagonist and the antagonist. The mechanics combine decisions that directly affect the plot but also define your relationship with Dorian the hostage-taker, something which is crucial to your hopes of survival. There are moments of suspense, action and drama as the two spar intellectually, emotionally and physically. Themes of Stockholm Syndrome, morality, art and socio-political issues are all touched upon.
The Gallery isn’t your first FMV project – what, as a writer and director, have been some of the key takeaways from your earlier projects?
Every decision must have stakes. Whether those are life and death or making a good impression on a date – both carry weight for the protagonist and that is what players want from this experience. Every decision point must have a tangible effect on the narrative – whether that is directly to the plot, shaping your protagonist as a person or their relationship with those around them.
What can you tell us about the storyboarding process for a production like this?
It is the primary and most important part of the process. Before going near a blank page of the script, I map a whole flowchart out containing the scenes, branches and other mechanics that will be at play. Once the flowchart has gone through a considered process of development, I convert it all into a corresponding script. Both of these documents are as important as each other to the project, working as companion pieces for the actors and all production departments.
What’s left to do for The Gallery until the release?
We are putting the finishing touches to the game engine, playtesting to make sure the logic across the 5 hours of content is all sound and ironing out any bugs we pick up. Aside from that, it is pretty much ready to start on-boarding ahead of the April release! I’m learning a lot and very excited. We just released the poster and the trailer is set to drop in March which will give everyone an even better idea of what it will look like!