The Breakthroughs in Storytelling Awards, Summit and Symposium honor the most innovative approaches to narrative from the past year.

The Breakthroughs in Storytelling Awards, Summit and Symposium honor the most innovative approaches to narrative from the past year.


Sam Barlow
Interactive Movie
United States
August 2022

"The idea of Immortality is to have youwatch the movie footage with something like the mindset of a film editor. One who is trying to make sense of, put together this stack of footage from lost movies." —Sam Barlow

Immortality is an innovative and unique project created by Sam Barlow, a game developer known for his focus on narrative and player agency. It is a video game that doubles as three feature-length films exploring the treatment of women in Hollywood, in particular the misogyny they encountered during different eras of cinema. It is played through a clip-oriented system like those created with a Moviola editing machine. By clicking on objects and artifacts in a scene, you can jump into a new narrative or a behind-the-scenes clip. The flexibility in its gameplay allows you to watch the films as a 10-hour-long scrapbooked movie or to play like a true crime fanatic, flipping through manual fast-forward and rewind functions with your keyboard or controller to uncover missed glances and evidence. Immortality is an  example of how video games can be used to explore complex themes and challenge traditional genres, blurring the lines between cinema, gaming, and interactive fiction.

Since the beginning of his career, Sam Barlow has created games that blur the lines of traditional gaming genres. Operating at the intersection of interactive fiction, cinema, and gaming, his work is unique in its focus on narrative and in the agency given to the player in creating their own path through the story.

Barlow's first title, Aisle, released in 1999, let the player make only one move. This sparked an entire genre of one-move games. Her Story (2015) is a murder mystery set in the modern day, but the player is dead-dropped onto a police computer terminal and left to rummage through recordings of multiple interrogation sessions from 1994 in a missing person case. In 2017, Barlow founded his Brooklyn-based studio, Half-Mermaid Productions. Its first title, Telling Lies, was published two years later by Annapurna Interactive. In March 2023, Barlow and producer Natalie Watson received the BAFTA Game Award for Narrative for Immortality.

"Every now and then you play a video game that you just cannot stop thinking about. . . . And then, very occasionally, a game comes along that is so entirely unlike anything you’ve ever played that it becomes an obsession. Immortality, the latest from lauded game-maker Sam Barlow and his studio Half Mermaid, is one of those. It is something that has never existed before: a video game that is also three feature-length films, wrapped around a mystery so compelling that I couldn’t concentrate on anything else for days." —The Guardian

"It’s Barlow’s mystery-solving focus finally paired with the scope and scale that makes it sing, and in a way that asks players to rise to a higher interpretive level than the vast majority of video games made in this world." —Vice

"The latest effort from Sam Barlow, director and writer of Her Story and Telling Lies, this is both a love letter to cinema as an art form and a warning of the perils of the film industry that too often controls that art." —Empire

"Rather than a horror or a tragedy, Immortality is perhaps best thought of as an elegy. What lingers in the mind are the human moments between takes when the actors look directly into the lens or chatter among themselves. So convincing are these, so delicately performed . . . you may forget Immortality is entirely fictional. Indeed, more so than any other Barlow game, the appeal here lies as much in the story as in its format. At one point, following a scene filled with practical effects, Marcel bends down to the camera and asks, 'Did the earth move for you, too?' Playing Immortality, an ingenious, slippery and utterly absorbing work, the answer is a resounding yes." —Vulture