Is this thing working?
Can anyone read me?
So begins the hit mobile game Lifeline, an innovative kind of interactive fiction published by Big Fish Games. Since its first release in 2015 the Lifeline game and its sequels have become wildly popular, reaching the top 10 paid apps in the Apple app store and earning rave reviews from critics. We at ExLT came across Lifeline thanks to a tip from teacher, writer and conference speaker Paul Driver and thought this was a perfect game to use with students.
The original Lifeline is the story of Taylor, the only survivor of a spaceship crash, who gets in contact with you. You read messages from him within the app, and are presented with choices of what you can say back to him at certain intervals. Basically you are Taylor’s only means of support, his lifeline to the world. And your job is to help him (or her, it’s never really clear which is quite clever) survive. As you communicate with Taylor, sometimes he/she will go and do things and you’ll have to wait a certain amount of time for Taylor to come back and talk again. So, you interact with this in short bursts throughout the day.
I’ve played the game through twice now, and lost each time. You lose when Taylor dies as a result of your advice. I once let poor Taylor freeze to death, and another time I sent him/her on a wild goose chase across some mountains. Taylor kept questioning my decisions, but I insisted that he/she keep going. I felt pretty bad about it, to tell the truth.
The great thing is that you can talk to someone else who is playing the game and compare choices you’ve made. This is where the game could be useful in the language classroom. Students could each get the app and begin the story the same day (perhaps in class). They then interact with Taylor throughout the week, and when class reconvenes they share experiences. Who can keep Taylor alive the longest? (In fact, this is what Paul Driver told us he was doing with his students).
The Lifeline series now has four games: Lifeline (where you communicate with the astronaut Taylor), Lifeline 2: Bloodline (a fantasy theme in which you communicate with the sorceress Arika to help her find her brother), Lifeline: Silent Night (Taylor returns!) and Lifeline: Whiteout (the character here is called V Adams, and the game is set in the arctic).
Lifeline games are available on IOS and Google and cost around €1.99 each, although they sometimes go on sale or on free offer. For more details, see the Lifeline Game Website.