Someone should make a game about: FlashForward

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Someone should make a game about: FlashForward

There’s a new version of Rebecca out, which is good news if you love Rebecca, and who doesn’t? But it’s also weird news, because you’re going up against Hitchcock and a version of Rebecca that is pretty much ideal.

In truth, I love this. I think people should have a swing at things even if an earlier swing was a home run. Don’t make it better – make it your own! But I also remember the standard line for remakes: never remake something that worked. Remake something that almost worked.

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FlashForward almost worked. Also, for my sins, I kind of love it. It’s been a science fiction novel – I finally read it during lockdown – and it’s been a TV series that didn’t quite come together. Now I would love it to be a game. FlashForward!

FlashForward was a TV series on ABC back in 2009. Crucial context: Lost was ending, also on ABC, and a replacement was needed. Something with a science fiction edge, but grounded in human drama. You can picture the suits trying to photo-fit the perfect show together. A large cast, a central mystery that only deepens the more you learn, but wouldn’t it be nice to be able to film the whole thing in Los Angeles rather than having to head over to Hawaii with all our lights and stepladders and cables and all that jazz?

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Hence FlashForward. Want a high concept? Everyone on earth goes to sleep for a few minutes and gets to see a vision of themselves six months into the future. Then they wake up again into a world of fender benders and plane crashes and people hanging off skyscraper window-cleaning gantries, but changed, with this partial knowledge of what is to come. What caused the FlashForward? That’s a nice central mystery. How will people react to this glimpse of their futures? That’s a nice excuse for a large cast. Throw in Joseph Fiennes, Sonya Walger – from Lost! – Courtney B. Vance and John Cho, who both improve just about everything they’re in, and a bunch of others, including Christina Woods and Jack Davenport, an actor who defines the somewhat nebulous term “dishy”, and you’re all set for an interesting examination of determinism, but with car chases, because a lot of the cast are in the FBI.

I will be honest here. I love this show. Somehow I’ve watched the first series three times. Every time I watch it I can forget that it was cruelly cancelled before series two. But the reasons for its cancellation are also apparent. It’s a lot of threads that don’t really go anywhere. It’s globe-hopping drama, but only if the globe that is hopped to can be filmed near Barstow with a bit of a filter on things. It has a great cast, but they sort of just sit around talking about determinism a lot. And the tone: drama, a touch of comedy? It doesn’t quite come together.

In a game, though, I really feel like it could come together. A lot of FlashFoward revolves around Mosaic, a sort of proto-social network that has been set up to allow people to record the information from their FlashFowards and cross-reference it with other people. In the show, this is a convenient way of coming up with hooks for new episodes. But in a game, well, the game could be Mosaic: the cross-referencing, the slowly emerging context. The ticking clock! You wouldn’t just have to talk about determinism with Jack Davenport – he never returns my calls BTW – you could actually watch it warp and flex and shatter and cohere in real-time.

One day, I tell myself, as I weep over the fate of John Cho and Courtney B. Vance, who really do improve anything they’re in, FlashForward will be rebooted. Hopefully this time it will be interactive.

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