The events of Rapture take place in 1984 – a very familiar year to those who know their Orwell, but a lot of the real-world feelings at the time echoed that novel’s themes. How does Rapture tap into that mindset of unease, among other things, and how you do convey that in the game?
Jess: We grew up in that late part of the Cold War and it was an uneasy time – there was a lot of fear about nuclear war still. For us, we had TV shows like Threads and books like When The Wind Blows that were really scary as kids (they still are). It was before the internet existed in the public domain in any real way, there were only three TV channels in the UK – so you could genuinely get cut off from the world. There was a hurricane on the South Coast of England in 1987 and it cut off the village Dan grew up in – no electricity, phones, television, road access. The world could have ceased to exist for the day or two it took to clear the roads. I think those kinds of memories are there in the game, and the way characters respond to events we’ve tried to draw very much from our own experiences. The really important thing is that we identify with them, they are real people.
The title is Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, but you focus on a small set of characters – without spoiling too much, what was it like crafting and creating these individuals and their paths through such life and world-altering events?
Jess: It’s been an amazing journey. We really did start with characters – my mum was a soap opera writer (for UK readers, she wrote Brookside and House of Elliot), and she’s always said the important thing is characters, not plot. We got to know our main characters – Wendy, Jeremy, Frank, Lizzie, Stephen and Kate – and then a lot of the writing came from asking “what they would do if…” This goes for the other characters as well. We felt that if these were recognizable people, then their stories would matter, even if they weren’t big dramatic moments in the plot. Some of our favourite moments in the game are really quite small, but they’re so human, it’s really lovely. Everyone on the team has a favourite character, we hope that players will also get that. And because it’s non-linear, it means you can go back again into the game a second or third time, once you know what’s happening, and it really changes what you might think about a character that time around. My favourite character is Wendy, Dan loves Charlie and Rachel, who both play quite small parts in the story.