French video game mourns designer Éric Viennot

Far from retiring, Éric Viennot was still actively working on various projects including The Man Who Dreamed in an Unknown Language, a transmedia project combining a book and a film. The concept of transmedia will have accompanied this author for a large part of his career. After training in fine arts at the Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne University, where he developed his passion for contemporary art, Éric Viennot gave up his teaching position at the same university to co-found the independent studio Lexis Numérique, which he continues to run as creative director since 24 years.

And while Alexandra Ledermann’s equestrian franchise is undoubtedly one of the studio’s major commercial successes, Éric Viennot is best remembered for his narrative-driven games The Adventures of Uncle Ernest, In Memoriam and Alt-Minds. Les Aventures de l’Oncle Ernest, a series of children’s adventure games translated into more than 15 languages, allowed the studio to grow and grow from 5 to over 50 employees in the early 2000s. With the thriller In Memoriam , supported by Ubisoft in 2003, Eric Viennot left the young audience aside and created the first alternative reality video game in Europe.

The player had to conduct the investigation through a variety of websites that were created or already existed for the occasion. The concept is intriguing and has had some success (sold over 250,000 copies in Europe), earning it the 2003 SACD Prize for Interactive Creation. A sequel, In Memoriam: The Last Ritual, will be released in 2006, a year before the Lyon native was made Chevalier des Arts et Lettres. Last year Éric Viennot even published the novel In Memoriam, 18 years after the game’s release, which allowed those who didn’t have the opportunity to play it at the time to discover its main plot and universe.

After the In Memoriam series, Éric Viennot continues to explore the path of transmedia games, of which he will remain one of the pioneers. In partnership with Orange, he worked for several years on Alt-Minds, a paranormal thriller inspired by real events, to be released in 2012. Between TV series and game, this project invited the public to participate in a large interactive investigation for eight weeks, with extensions in real space. Long before Ingress and Pokémon GO, players had to use a location-based app to “catch” glyphs scattered around the world. “To produce an interactive thriller that is written in real time over eight weeks is a claim to admiration,” Yukishiro wrote in his test at the time, without being convinced of the implementation. The Lexis Numérique studio is also in poor financial shape and has to close its doors in June 2014, two years after the release of the game.

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