I don’t think it’s possible that there’s another game in existence that will have you bleeping out swearwords as British posh people put on a naked protest, choosing whether or not to support a growing political resistance, and potentially harming innocent children by advertising a dangerous toy. Not For Broadcast may be a simulation game, in which you are tasked with switching between camera angles during live broadcasts, cutting to commercials, and managing interference, but you’ll be doing it all in a very weird version of Britain.
In the role of a television producer forced to learn on the job, Not For Broadcast presents you with a bunch of screens, lots of fiddly knobs, some basic instructions, and then it’s up to you to try and make sense of all the nonsense happening in front of your eyes. You’ll choose which commercials to run – some of which will have consequences – what pictures to cut to in the news summaries (often choosing whether or not to show people at their best or worst) and do your at best swapping camera angles to keep viewers interested and occasionally avoid errant genitals.
Storms can lock certain buttons, the equipment can overheat. It gets tricky when you’re doing it all at once, tracking broadcasts to block signal interference, watching the cameras, and hitting the censor button to stop swearwords making it to air. It’s the kind of multitasking that makes methamphetamine seem like not such a bad idea.
As you work, the strange world the game is set in reveals itself through your screens. A new political party, Advantage, preaches equality but gets more sinister by the day. Unhinged sports games play out with all the drama and slapstick of the Olympics, schoolchildren put on a well-intentioned but terrible play about privilege and bullying. Between segments, you can make choices about your personal life, a sort of ‘choose your own adventure’ of living in a horribly familiar political dystopia. Do you give your family member your passport so they can flee the country before Advantage seizes their assets? Let your son join Advantage’s youth group? Tell your boss to shove it where the sun doesn’t shine or disappoint your wife?
Knobs and… knobs
From your seat in the control room, you can watch the stuff that doesn’t make it to air, workplace dramas, tantrums, day-to-day bitching, and even go back into the archives later to suck up every second. You probably won’t, but then I’m a Brit abroad missing the strange comforts of hyper-local British news, and the cast does an admirable job of recreating the UK of ten or 20 years ago.
The game never knows whether it wants to be biting political satire with a serious message or the sort of comedy show you watch after a night on the beers, so the end product is a little disorientating and very weird. And yet, it’s a type of weird I couldn’t stop watching, a car crash unfolding before my eyes while my fingers scrabbled to make sure I kept the shot switching between the carnage and the reporter at audience-pleasing intervals. It probably should be noted that this might be the first time a game has featured multiple occurrences of the word “titwank” too. Sometimes you really do feel proud about British industry.
Not For Broadcast has been in early access since 2020 – that early version made it onto our best sim games list – but if you’ve never checked out this eccentric TV station simulation, the release of the final, finished campaign is a perfect excuse to tune in to its strange, unhinged reality.
Not For Broadcast is out now on PC, and you can try the demo, Not For Broadcast: Prologue, for free.