Critical Play: Story Games – Not For Broadcast

This past weekend I played a bit of Not For Broadcast (and watched a ton of it).

Not For Broadcast is a full-motion propaganda simulator where the player plays the role of a studio director controlling the news in an unnamed European country. As the studio director, the player has the ability to control the news by panning between different cameras and managing other aspects of the broadcast. The player manages two goals during the broadcast: making sure the broadcast draws a lot of viewers regardless of the political message, and making decisions about what sort of political message to create through the cameras and the decisions made during the broadcast. Though the first goal is the only one needed to progress from broadcast to broadcast, the second goal ultimately determines the flow and events of the story.

Players can make in-the-moment decisions during a real-time broadcast and make more thought out decisions during text-based conversations with characters in the story, similar to traditional interactive fiction. There are a total of 14 endings in the story based on the different choices a player makes.

Overall, I’m a huge fan of the game. It makes it so the choices the player makes are integrated into the actual gameplay and part of the narrative. As a player, I don’t feel like I’m “paused” and artificially forced to make a choice; I feel like I’m immersed in the game and playing as a studio director. I’m extremely impressed by the developers as they have mountains of footage to make the story feel immersive but also relevant to the real world. There is a ton of satire of modern news coverage but the game doesn’t devolve into pure social commentary. As a player (and viewer) I still felt like it was still a game and primarily meant to be fun.

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