5 ways a survival horror game can inspire interactive video design

Whether you enjoy fighting a horde of never-ending zombies in Resident Evil or putting yourself through the intense anxiety that Five Nights at Freddy’s can bring, there’s a wide range of horror gaming experiences that even the most sheepish of gamers can enjoy.

After stumbling across a new type of survival horror game, I discovered that its main mechanic was based primarily on key elements we use within our own interactive video framework. Check out the elements I experienced and see how they can be used to increase your learners’ engagement.

Until Dawn

Until Dawn is an interactive drama survival horror adventure, which centres around a group of eight teenagers who decide to stay for the night in a lone cabin in the middle of nowhere, exactly one year after the disappearance of two girls. Sound familiar? Stay with me…

Shortly after arriving, the gang find themselves under attack by a psychopath and must attempt to survive until sunrise. Throughout the adventure, players alternate between all eight characters, making critical decisions as the story advances which drastically affects the game's outcome, leading to hundreds of different scenarios.



The ultimate ‘choose your own adventure’ book

Branching scenarios are the main technique used throughout the game, where some decisions you make are trivial and others play a big part in shaping where the story goes. When you make significant choices you will be notified that the story’s path has changed, reminding you that your decisions have impact, and in some cases, are a matter of life and death.

Throughout the game you visit a therapist who asks you questions about your fears. These questions are presented as a choice of A or B and are then shuffled and repeated. Your next question might contain one of your already chosen fears next to a new one and as you continue to whittle down through the choices the game will learn exactly what makes you tick, or in this case, scream.

Choosing between a fear of heights or drowning multiple times pretty much guaranteed that one of my characters was going to get themselves into a pickle on some high ledge later down the line.

How to implement it in your learning 

Branching can be used to demonstrate a cause and effect, explore different courses of action, learn from mistakes or serve up some wisdom videos from respected experts and peers from within your business.

Take a look at this example from London’s Met Police on the consequences of knife crime. It’s not about answering every question correctly to achieve the perfect score. Instead you can see the consequences play out and the impact it has on you as the character in the game.


a picture of a lady spying on a friends mobile phone

a picture of a book with the two choices, a fear of heights or a fear of drowning

Free to discover

Until Dawn allows you to take full control of your characters and walk around, clicking on objects and reviewing them. This enables the gamer to uncover hidden pieces to the story and develop their own opinions about each of the characters.

How to implement it in your learning 

Whilst you wouldn’t have this exact freedom in interactive video, having hidden hotspots and inviting the user to click when they spot something out of the ordinary could achieve the same effect.

Take health and safety training for example. Recording someone walking around their work environment with a GoPro strapped to their head would provide a first person perspective. This puts the learner in the position of control where they can identify potential hazards or risks by clicking on them before they happen. Points could be scored, tracked and linked to lifelines, levels and even leader boards.

a picture of a man looking at a wanted poster

a picture of two people walking down a very dark corridor

Quick thinking 

Time pressured situations and countdown timers are used at random points in the game when you would least expect it to help adrenalise situations. At one point, I was running through a snowstorm from a deranged killer where I was presented with two hotspots asking if I should take the fast or the safe route. Another time, I was trying to jump a wall and out of nowhere a symbol matching one on my control popped up coupled with a countdown timer. If I didn't get to the button in time, my character would have slipped and done some serious damage, potentially hindering my character’s rate of survival later down the line.

How to implement it in your learning

These types of quick time events can help your learners make split decisions, keeping them alert and engaged.

The way to use this in learning is to consider instances where it’s important to complete a set action within a certain timeframe, otherwise it’s not realistic for the learner. So, customer service related scenarios work particularly well to this. For example, for our learners who work in environments where they serve alcohol, we’ve created a game where they have to identify whether or not to ID a series of customers and are given just 5 seconds to respond to each one. They are marked on both speed and accuracy.

a picture of a girl with the two choices of safe or quick

a picture of a girl climbing a wall and a console controller button

Know who’s who

When you’re introduced to a character, you are shown their personality traits and relationship statuses with the rest of the group. These traits can help you pair people up to ensure a higher rate of survival, or you may just want to play matchmaker for a more dramatic story.

How to implement it in your learning

Think about filming drama-based scenarios. By using personas or customer profiles, we can get learners into a habit of matching products to customers. We provide information in a similar style to the video game and this can be revisited by the learner at any point. But ultimately, they will need to make a decision based on what they know about the customer. If they can suggest the correct product they’ve got a much better chance of making the sale!

a picture of a man with the words methodical, protective and humorous next to him

a picture of a lady with a list of character traits and relationship statuses

Rewarding your survival 

Whilst the main reward for me was keeping as many characters alive as possible, there were many other rewards for finding hidden objects such as totems. Finding one of these gave you insight in how one of your characters might die and ultimately, help you prevent it. 

Collecting these totems also unlocked a very short video clip that got placed on a timeline in a random order. Initially these video clips made no sense, but the more I collected, the more the video and the back story started piecing itself together.

How to implement it in your learning

Adding an element of gamification to your learning in the form of scoring, lifelines and tracking for summative diagnostics could provide inspiration for your learners to complete the course and even add a replay factor. Endowed progress ensures your learners keep coming back, and in turn retain the information they’ve learnt.

a picture of a man kneeling in the snow with a wooden totem in his hands

a picture of totem poles

If both the content and a gamified approach is appropriate for your audience, interactive video offers all the functionality and analytics for the sort of game mechanics associated with video games.

Want to find out more about interactive video? Check out our guide Lights, camera, interaction, or listen to our podcast Tthe future of video is interactive.

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