Sam Barlow’s ‘Telling Lies’ Government-Surveillance Thriller Game Sets Release Date

Telling Lies - Logan Marshall-Green
Courtesy of Annapurna Interactive

After more than two years in the works, “Telling Lies” — the investigative thriller from acclaimed game creator Sam Barlow — is ready to take the stage.

The game, produced with and released by Annapurna Interactive, will be available next Friday, Aug. 23, via Steam and Apple’s Mac and iOS app stores. “Telling Lies” will be $19.99 on PC/Mac and $6.99 on iOS.

“Telling Lies” follows Barlow’s 2015 “Her Story,” a similarly cinematic video-game in which players are presented with a database of video that slowly reveals a mystery. But Barlow said the new project has a larger canvas than its predecessor, with around 10 hours of total video footage in “Telling Lies.”

“I wanted this to be bigger, messier and more colorful than ‘Her Story,'” Barlow told Variety.

In “Telling Lies,” players find themselves sitting in front of an anonymous laptop loaded with a stolen NSA database of video footage that comprises secretly recorded, intimate conversations of four people. The game stars Logan Marshall-Green (pictured above), Angela Sarafyan, Alexandra Shipp and Kerry Bishé, whose stories are linked by a single shocking incident. As in “Her Story,” users explore the database by typing search terms, watching clips where those words are spoken, and piecing together the story.

“This is a game about listening to private conversations,” Barlow said. From a political perspective, the game’s point of view is that government invasion of privacy is a bad thing. It then explores what happens to people who are targeted by surveillance. “You see the gradual destruction of a character with ‘Telling Lies,'” he said.

The story covers a span of about two years, and Barlow said some of the scenes are as long as 15 minutes. “That lets us have a pace that’s very un-cinematic,” he said. “There are comfortable, and uncomfortable, silences.” He described “Telling Lies” as akin to a cross between Steven Soderbergh’s “Sex, Lies and Videotape” and “The Conversation,” the 1974 surveillance thriller starring Gene Hackman.

Without revealing any plot points, Barlow said “Telling Lies” will include a “cathartic bookend” that wraps up all the storylines with some personalization based on choices players made during gameplay. But he said there will be some questions left hanging. “The game will end when you have not necessarily seen everything,” he said.

“Telling Lies” is not like “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.” Barlow said “Telling Lies” is essentially the opposite of a choose-your-own-adventure branching narrative. “The pitch for me was the idea of a story that encourages deep reading,” he said. “The more time you spend with it, the more detail and context you get.” Users will be able to rewatch certain scenes and see them in a new context after learning other parts of the story.

Barlow declined to reveal the size of the “Telling Lies” budget but said the production was on an “indie-movie scale.” The cast and crew spent about six weeks shooting in L.A., with a total of about 40 speaking roles.

The shoot took place in L.A.’s Mid-City neighborhood, where the production took over three houses, four apartments, and a small shop that were all located near each other. “It became a very immersive experience for the actors,” Barlow said. “We were pretty strict about [actors] sticking to the script, but the blocking was more like – just get into the space.”

At this point, “Telling Lies” is mostly completed but the team is still making tweaks ahead of next week’s scheduled release. “We’ve been doing that fun thing with the bug database,” Barlow said. “You slowly make your peace with the small bugs.”

The game is available for pre-order on Apple’s App Store; more info is available at tellingliesgame.com.

Other titles from Annapurna Interactive, which Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures movie studio formed in 2016, include “What Remains of Edith Finch,” “Gorogoa” and “Florence.”