Gamers turn into detectives in Nihal Tharoor’s ‘Dead Man’s Phone’
A new mobile game launched by British Indian entrepreneur Nihal Tharoor, behind the British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA) nominated studio Electric Noir, has been creating waves with its unique concept of turning gamers into crime-solving police detectives.
Tharoor and co-founder Benedict Tatham released the murder mystery game ‘Dead Man’s Phone’ worldwide, across iOS and Android platforms, last week after registering over 200,000 downloads even in a pre-launch beta version since last year. In the game, designed as an interactive crime drama, the player becomes the lead character in the story and sets about piecing together clues to solve the fictional murder of a London teenager, Jerome Jacobs, pushed from a balcony and found dead holding his phone — the central feature in the crime solving journey.
“The concept takes advantage of smartphones to engage the player in an exciting new form of storytelling. Our phones are a microcosm of our lives and we’re all intimately familiar with how to use them. They are the perfect location to tell deep interactive stories,” explains Tharoor.
On their phone, the player will have a news app that reports on who they arrest, a maps app where they can track the live location of suspects, a social media app where they can launch a viral campaign and even a Zoom app to conduct remote police interviews. And, if the drama feels realistic, it’s because the creators turned to former Metropolitan Police detective sergeant and homicide investigator Sim Cryer as consultant and also one of the actors in the crime drama.
“So, we could bring in these genuine articles on the Met Police and how murder detective work is conducted in the UK,” says Tharoor, who hopes to trigger a new trend with this concept and attract non-gamers to the fold by tapping into the popularity of dramas increasingly being accessed through online streaming platforms.
Taking the leap
The idea of telling an interactive story entirely through a character’s smartphone was born in 2017, when both Tharoor and Tatham were working at top marketing firms. They took the leap to experiment in a whole new arena and founded Electric Noir Studios in London.
“Ben and I had zero games industry experience when we founded our company,” recalls Tharoor.
Now over three years later, Season 1 with six episodes of ‘Dead Man’s Phone’ has bagged the BAFTA Mobile Game of the Year Nomination and an official selection at the London Games Festival 2021. Reviewers have been impressed with the innovative and immersive format and organisations have also been attracted to the way the game tackles sensitive subjects around gang violence, racism and racial profiling.
The duo behind the popular game is already working on Season 2 as part of a wider plan to bring the narrative quality of a TV drama into individual hands.