Do interactive movies count as games? Ask five different gamers and you’ll get five different answers, four of which will probably have merit. (The fifth guy just says “Git gud.”) Otis is, yes, an interactive movie. You can view a narrative through one of three perspectives and change to any of those perspectives in real time.
I’m not that old – I’m only 31 – but I recall that a lot of cool features were touted when DVDs first came out. Among them were the idea that you could see certain scenes from alternate camera angles. Throughout the storied career of these little plastic discs, few movies (in my experience, anyway) took the time and expense to produce this feature for DVDs. It was cool when it existed, but it didn’t really add anything of substance to the film overall.
I spent a good bit of time chatting with the fine folks at Play NYC 2017 working on the project, partly out of interest and partly – full disclosure – they were kind enough to let me bum their power strip to charge my phone. (Play NYC was a fickle mistress of photo taking and battery draining.) What I learned was that the project is headed by passionate creators who want to tell a story in a new and interesting way, and from what I’ve seen I think they’ve pulled it off.
Otis doesn’t just do alternate camera angles, it does alternate perspectives. You get the same story told from three different points of view. That alone can be interesting in its own right. The ability to switch in real time makes it a good bit more intriguing to me. And hey, if you want to feel like a modern movie editor, you can just simulate the current wave of excessive jump cuts by slamming your head on the keyboard repeatedly.
As for those perspectives of games and what makes a game, I think interactivity is enough. Otis has the absolute bare minimum of interactivity: push one of three buttons and see something different. What it does with that is tell an interesting short story that’s worth watching, and judging by the fact that they call this “Episode 1” it seems that it’s only the beginning. You can view the first episode of Otis on its website, and hopefully there will be more to come. If anything, it’s certainly a novel experience.
What do you think of Otis? Does an interactive movie meet your definition of a game? If not, what’s the bare minimum that a game must have for you to consider it a game? Let us know in the comments below!