We ask Lisa Mac Hale, Head of Development BBC History and Business, about the idea
Tell us about the idea
How To Survive A Nuclear Attack is a new approach to history content designed for 16-24 year olds - a mixed genre animation/live action interactive narrative based the recently declassified British government war game ‘Exercise Regenerate’ from 1982. Informed by the history of the Cold War nuclear threat, the narrative encourages a ‘player’ to make difficult decisions to ensure their survival in the wake of a nuclear attack on Britain.
Can you set up the story for us?
The narrative is spread across three days and three nights, beginning just moments before the bombs drop and ending with a ‘rescue’ by the military on the morning of Day Four. In the intervening time, the government is in hiding and the authorities are crippled. Our player is on their own.
In the course of making decisions, players must avoid being exposed to dangerous situations and radiation that will cause their health and/or morale to deteriorate and potentially result in death. They can also make choices that might improve their health and/or morale, and thereby contribute to their chances of survival. The player’s health and morale levels are measured onscreen throughout the experience, and their ‘score’ is assessed at the end of each day – with the potential that they might die on any evening. At the end of the narrative they will be given a total score, and they can choose to ‘re-play’ at any time to improve their score.
All situations within the game are drawn from fact or expertly informed projections. In addition to ‘Exercise Regenerate’ our sources include eyewitness accounts of the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, other Cold War preparation exercises such as ‘WINTEX-CIMEX 83’, and expert calculations and plans for how Britain would face the aftermath of a nuclear onslaught.
What features make this stand out?
How To Survive a Nuclear Bomb is a scrolling parallex graphic novel which moves upon the user prompting. Interactive decision moments and a game mechanic in which the user steers the course of the story and influences whether they will survive to the end. This creates a stylish yet cost effective way of creating a story for young audiences. We think this allows the user to put themselves at the heart of a story which plays out according to the choices they make. The survival game mechanic also provides repeat playability.
There is also embedded video content which is an interesting contrast to the graphic novel and adds real emotional impact to the story.
At the end of each day you can review a 'secret dossier' containing information relating to points within the story and the consequences of the decision made by the user. ‘Hoodwink history' relates the events from the story back to historical fact or documentation.
How was it made?
Editorial developed, researched, written and overseen by BBC History & Business, digital design and technical production provided by digital agency Jollywise. The original idea came about as part of the BBC Connected Studios initiative to explore the future of BBC digital content.