Dead Space as a social activity excels if your audience is into it. I am going to discuss it here as an interactive movie, with the player as the cameraman and primary actor. Imagine a movie (one like Event Horizon, Leviathan, or The Thing) where the camera actually responds to your input.
Compare the following scenarios.
Movie: While the main character is investigating a broken console, a shadow quickly flits down the hallway to the right, but the main character notice it. Everyone yells, “What the hell was that on the right?!” Character continues to repair broken console oblivious to their doom.
Dead Space: While the main character is investigating a broken console, a shadow quickly flits down the hallway to the right, but the main character doesn’t notice it. Everyone yells, “What the hell was that on the right?!” This time, the camera turns and the actor actually investigates the hallway to the right.
The art in Dead Space plays no small part in the movie like experience. The USG Ishimura, while abandoned, is believable as a large spaceship equipped to house over a thousand people. It has a work areas, living areas, engineering, and most importantly, a tram system and a zero G basketball court. A shopping mall and even a virtual brothel are insinuated by advertisements that are strewn about the ship. There are trash cans and bathrooms. Luggage is found near the flight deck but not near the mining facility.
In short, it’s a believable set.
Which is what makes it more unsettling for the audience when they find out that there doesn’t seem to be anyone on it.
If you look, really look at everything in Dead Space, the environment is telling you a story. Literally. The strange graffiti on the wall? That’s all Unitology script that can be decoded because they created an alphabet for it. Thomas Holt pointed that out to me and, I would have missed it because it was such detail.
I was avoiding Dead Space. It came out in November of last year and I just was not sold on it. I was done with the survival horror genre. I had heard about it, and read favorable reviews, but then attributed those reviews to fans of Resident Evil.
Then, slowly, I was worn down by praise from people I knew and finally asked to borrow a copy from a friend.
I played three chapters on a Friday night, followed by a marathon session on Sunday because it was so compelling. For the rest of the day on Sunday, I was accompanied by a friend of mine who was a fan of movies like Event Horizon. She loved it not only because of the storyline, but because of the interaction and the feeling of immersion.
I’d like to see someone try, as a social experiment, playing Dead Space with an audience, a chapter a night say on a movie night.