Unit9 has teamed up with a student director and producer to launch a live action zombie game sponsored by G-Shock. The game was launched under Unit9 presents, a scheme helping new creatives make interactive content combining film and gameplay…
Released online today, Five Minutes was directed by Maximilian Niemann and produced by Felix Faisst, both students at Germany’s Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg . It begins with footage of a character in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, who is worried he may be ‘infected’ and has five minutes to decide whether to shoot himself and avoid joining the undead.
As the character John explains, the first symptom of infection is memory loss: the game switches between his flashbacks and attempts to defend himself and his daughter against attacking zombies. Viewers asked to tap, swipe and draw shapes with their finger or mouse to help fire guns, unlock doors and escape through a forest.
It’s a compelling (and gory) piece of film and gameplay is fairly simple but engaging, although a little tricky for the not-so-steady of hand using a mouse. Players can choose from one of three levels of difficulty and can pause and replay parts of the game at any time. After a gruesome ending, they are also invited to share their score online.
To make the film, Niemann and Faisst taught themselves how to code and built a custom HTML framework, meaning the game can be played on any tablet or desktop device without installing an app. While it’s not an official ad, the project was sponsored by G-Shock and features the brand’s watches throughout (they are worn by both John and his daughter and used to count down throughout the five-minute period).
The pair came up with the idea for the film last year and pitched it to Unit9, who helped develop and release it. They have since been signed to the company for commercial work, although have still to finish their final year of studies. “Our goal was to create a different form of advertisement which involves the viewer in a fun and emotional way,” they explain. “Although the viewer knows or has the feeling this is branded content, he should be able to enjoy it, to experience the brand without being constantly reminded of the product.”
The project is one of several self-initiated interactive experiences that Unit9 has helped emerging directors produce and promote: in the past two years, it has worked with The Kissinger Twins on two interactive web films, Sufferosa and The Trip; a short film inspired by Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto series by Gevorg Karensky and The Most Northern Place, a web experience telling the fascinating story of Qaanaaq, an Inuit settlement and one of the world’s northernmost towns.
Five Minutes is the first film to be produced under the Unit9 presents name, and co-founder Piero Frescobaldi says the company is keen to work with more creatives who can make engaging interactive content.
“Up until a few years ago, a lot of people in the digital interactive industry were pushing boundaries, and brands were braver,” says Frescobaldi.
“For various reasons, it seems everyone is a little less willing to experiment. It’s just a thing that happens cyclically, and I’m sure things will change, but it feels like everyone has retreated into their shell a little. It’s up to us as creatives to just go out and make things, or promote people who do, and revitalise the industry that way, rather than waiting for the perfect brief,” he explains.
While Unit9 presents will help promote and make films, Frescobaldi says creatives looking to work with the agency have to do more than just pitch an idea. “With Five Minutes, [Niemann and Faisst] came to me with an idea, they had shot some of the footage and written it, and I thought it was good, but told them I thought they should try and push it forward, to see what else they could do with it. A few months later, they sent me a link and had created a really engaging, emotional piece of work by teaching themselves to code,” he says.
“What’s amazing is that [Niemann and Faisst] are able to think about everything from colour grading and camera angles, to how it will work in HTML5. Nowadays, I think that is really important and I’m very excited, as I think we’re starting to see a generational shift – young people who have an innate understanding of interactive technology and gameplay, who are training themselves in new mediums,” he says.
While there is no limit on the number of projects Unit9 presents will take on, Frescobaldi says it will only do so if the idea is sufficiently interesting, and directors show real promise.
“If students can make things like [Five Minutes], we can help with scripting and developing it, or using our following to market it and promote it,” he adds. “And in parallel to this, with Five Minutes, we have a representation deal.”
A zombie horror game isn’t an obvious choice of medium for a watch brand, or perhaps any brand, to showcase its products – in most scenes, John’s watch is covered in blood and pictured alongside a gaping wound in his arm – but it is an engaging piece of content, and Frescobaldi hopes projects like Five Minutes will encourage more companies to commission more experimental content online.
“Of course, as this wasn’t an official ad [G-Shock] don’t have to get the approval of multiple people, or spend big budgets on it – they are supporting a student project – but I hope it will stimulate people to take more risks,” he adds.
Play the game online (over 18s only) at fiveminutes.gs