“Internally we call it an ‘interactive experience…’”
Over the course of the game’s development and up to its eventual release, its primary publisher, Atari, preferred to brand Fahrenheit as “the first truly interactive film.” Admittedly, though, Cage was never fully comfortable with the label. “I know Fahrenheit isn’t an adventure game because it doesn’t use the traditional mechanics of the genre,” Cage says. “But I don’t like to call it an ‘interactive film’ either. It wasn’t a very successful designation in the ’90s, and I don’t think Fahrenheit shares the same vision about interactivity.”
Read about Quantic’s work with composers
He says he often asked himself (as did some game critics at the time) if Fahrenheit
could even be described as a video game because of its refusal to follow the traditional rules of the medium. But if neither a video game nor an interactive film, then what does Cage see Fahrenheit
as? “It’s narrative, and it’s fully interactive in its own way, so internally we call it an ‘interactive experience’ or ‘interactive drama’,” he says.
Like many who grew up alongside the emerging medium, video games represented a significant part of the 45-year-old Cage’s upbringing. He says he always loved LucasArts’ point-and-click adventure games (with a special place in his heart for Day of the Tentacle), as well as Cinemaware’s Amiga classics, and the games of French pioneers Lankhor, Delphine and Silmarils. But, he says, these games did not play a conscious role in the writing or creation of Fahrenheit, except perhaps in their desire to tell a story and create interesting characters.
“Conceptually, many conventional adventure games are based on puzzles and inventory management—two ingredients that Fahrenheit doesn’t use,” he explains. “For me, the experience had to be exclusively about interactive storytelling, which meant I had to find ways to make the story playable without using the mechanics traditionally found in adventure games.” Cage says solving this problem was by far the most challenging part of the project: “It took me a while to understand that being in the shoes of the characters could be a game by itself. Making difficult decisions, facing dilemmas, or just living their everyday life could be surprisingly pleasant and entertaining.”