In the last few years, the similarity between some video games and some films has grown closer, and what one might call the filmic experience is what is most defining in many video games nowadays; this is why a video game like Beyond: Two Souls was presented to the Tribeca Film Festival in 2013.
Developed by Quantic Dream (Detroit: Become Human, Heavy Rain) and released in 2013, Beyond: Two Souls is the perfect title to show duality in its many different aspects.
Two souls, two worlds
The game follows the story of Jodie Holmes (Elliot Page), a young girl with a psychic connection with a spiritual entity, Aiden. The two can communicate, and Jodie can also manipulate objects and people through telepathy.
Aiden is often impossible to control; for this reason, Jodie is soon brought under the custody of two doctors working for the Department of Paranormal Activity of the United States (DPA). They teach her how to control Aiden and their powers. By the end of the story players, along with Jodie, can finally know the truth: Aiden is Jodie’s stillborn twin brother.
Jodie stays in the middle of all this; she is a link between the real world and the Infraworld, the one of the dead. Since DPA doctors are trying to build a portal to connect the two worlds, what Josie is and does is crucial; although she often fears Aiden and their power. Players can feel and fear that same powerful energy while trying to make the right choice; they will have to guide Josie through her training, to the point where she is finally able to have the control she desires.
One choice away from freedom
As soon as Jodie learns more about Aiden and his real identity, she has to face a final decision. She can either choose to keep living her life in the real world or go to the Infraworld, where she could finally reunite with everyone she has lost. The choice is not simple, everything is up to the player. But no matter what the player chooses, her existence will always be of a two-part nature.
The resemblance with a classic tale from the 1800s like Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde may be evident. But the story behind Beyond: Two Souls is not about the fight between the good and the bad side of a person. It is more about two individuals fighting for freedom; it is about two souls desperately trying to become one.
Another kind of game
Beyond: Two Souls is an interactive drama with a lot of action added to it. Choices are what makes the game a successful work of entertainment. As already mentioned, this video game is so close to the cinematic experience that has been presented to film festivals. Actors such as Willem Dafoe and Elliot Page made the interactive storytelling nature of the game as enjoyable as watching a movie.
The game is all about players choosing on behalf of Josie, but they will eventually discover they have no control at all. For that reason, players’ feelings about the game are mixed. The idea behind it all was to appeal to non-gamers, insisting more on the cinematic aspect of the game.
On that note, Beyond: Two Souls was nominated by The Daily Telegraph’s E3 2012 Best in Show award as the Game most likely to win an Oscar. It also won numerous awards mostly because of the story narrative and its construction.
With the game being so cinematic, a large portion of the public complained about the lack of action. Players seemed to prefer more classic gameplay. But precisely because Beyond: Two Souls was so new and different, it influenced every title from that point on. Quantic Dream and other game developers are narrowing the gap between games and movies, and players are slowly starting to accept that inevitable horizon.