Not For Broadcast

Remember, Mr Snugglehugs Wants to Be Your Friend...

Most video games set in a dystopic past tend to pitch players as a rebel, using their combat abilities to serve the public good, or alternatively, lead humanity into wrack and ruin based upon their decisions or indecision. Recently released on Steam Early Access by the teams at NotGames and tinyBuild, Not for Broadcast does a complete 180 on the standard formula – delivering perhaps one of the most unique games of 2020.

Not for Broadcast offers a gaming experience which merges split-second decision making with FMV clips. Players are placed in control of a newsroom, having direct control over what is displayed to the viewing audience in terms of news footage and advertisements. Decisions made by the player can have an impact on not only if they keep their job, but also whether or not say… a particular questionable toy makes its way into the hands of thousands of children. The end product is something which offers an ample challenge, while being an absolute riot to play through from start to finish.

Not for Broadcast - Mr Snugglehugs
Mr Snugglehugs <3

Being in early access, Not for Broadcast as of writing is limited in scope compared to the final planned version. Purchasers have access to three “fully-functioning” levels spanning approximately 20-30 minutes each. The developers plan to expand that number to at least ten by final release. Each level is broken up into three chapters, each encompassing one advert and one news segment. Although everything is over and done with relatively quickly, its unique approach to gameplay and dark yet comedic approach to writing makes it easy to love and worth playing through a couple of times at least.

As long-time readers of The Otaku’s Study will know, I have a Masters degree in Journalism. While I was heavily focused on digital/online journalism, I also dabbled in some broadcast journalism. Therefore, from the outset, I was thrilled about seeing the gamification of something I genuinely enjoyed doing in University but haven’t had the opportunity to do outside an academic environment.

Look, mate – it’s not that hard. Choose the angles, roll the ads, and bleep the swears. Just keep in mind that how you show these people will change their lives. Don’t worry – you’ll get paid either way!

Not for Broadcast takes place in an alternate reality 1980s, where the world is slowly but surely becoming a dystopia. You take on the role of a cleaner, yes a cleaner, who through a series of events find themselves at the helm of the National Nightly News. With limited guidance by the former operator who for reasons cannot be in the studio doing the job himself, you decide what reaches the television screens of watchers. With a colourful cast of politicians, celebrities, so-called performers and live-crosses to experts; all of whom aren’t your usual interviewees, mishaps and behind-the-scenes drama await. Your job is to keep attention on the news, hide any gaffes or “naughty” content, and ensure any orders from the higher-ups are met.

After some quick yet ample preparation work, players are flung right into managing their first news segment. At first, the job comes down to switching between camera angles and displays to ensure the focus is on the person speaking, reaction shots of the interviewer are captured and that the audience doesn’t get too bored. You are given a sort of baptism of fire from the outset, with an interview of a temperamental actor who struggles to hide his disgust being in the studio. Part of the challenge is trying not to showcase his outbursts to the audience while a trailer is playing, lest you run the risk of being fired.

Not For Broadcast - Drama Off-Screen
Drama Off-Screen

From switching between camera angles, Not for Broadcast gets progressively more challenging as you progress through the chapters. Soon you have to deal with bleeping out swear words and other unsavoury content through factoring in the time delay between recording and broadcast, dealing with electronic interference from unspecified sources and dealing with increasingly absurdist segments which make any of the aforementioned systems even harder to get right as you struggle to comprehend them. But if you do this right you will live to see another day at work… if you fail well, you may be fired in a matter of seconds. The increase in the challenge is well-paced and thanks to an increasing variety of problems, it never feels like you are doing the same thing over and over again. However, it will be interesting to see where they take gameplay from here, and just how challenging the later levels will be.

The first three chapters lay the foundations for the impending dystopian tale awaiting players, rather than thrusting them straight into it. Plotted out over several months, you hear news of the political party Advance rising to power, their actions against the wealthy offering cause for concern, and the beginning of attempts to influence media by requiring the station to broadcast “must-run” advertising. Outside of this, the narrative is jovial, involving everything from the most absurd competitive sport imaginable to an overly enthusiastic family acquiring the funding to put on the cringeworthy theatrical performance “Hey Friendship!”. The same can be said about most of the advertisements you can choose to run, from a promo video for a creepy Furby knock-off to a tourism campaign to the unexciting St. Bumley.

Not For Broadcast 1
Time to choose your own adventure, and determine the fate of your loved ones

While minimalist compared to the complex newsroom gameplay, much of Not for Broadcast’s darker narrative is presented in choose-your-own-adventure text segments between broadcasts. This is where you learn the real impact of Advance coming into control. Your decisions here have a profound effect on the relationship between your character and their family. 

NotGames and tinyBuild have laid out the foundations to deliver arguably one of the most memorable niche games of 2020/2021, and has found a modern-day use for FMV usage in video games. I am excited to see where the development team go from here. My one hope is that decisions made during broadcasts will have much more impact going forward, leading down branching paths or progressively leading the world down a route of dystopia or utopia. In particular, I would like to see fewer decisions during broadcasting driving me to be fired, but instead leading down different narrative paths for better or worse.

I would always err about purchasing Early Access games. Making the purchase you are never entirely guaranteed a finished product, and you can easily make judgements for better or worse based on an incomplete version of a much larger game. However, given how much love and passion that has gone into Not for Broadcast, this is one of the few I could recommend at least considering a purchase at this early stage. While only 30% of the chapters are currently playable, those three indicate more promising and challenging chapters going forward. Not for Broadcast takes a unique idea and an older-school approach to game design through the use of FMV – and delivers something befitting this new decade and the stringent expectations of gamers in 2020.


out of 10

Founder of The Otaku's Study. I have been exploring this labyrinth of fandom these last fifteen years, and still nowhere close to the exit yet. Probably searching for a long time to come.


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