In Five Minutes, A Student Zombie Game Becomes A Brand Experience

Two students created a zombie game that attracted backing from Casio and production company Unit9.

Is it a zombie game or is it a branded interactive film? In fact Five Minutes is both these things and more–highly polished student project launching online November 19 that’s attracted support from watch brand G-Shock and leading production company Unit9.


It all began with a student assignment to shoot an ad, Five Minutes’ co-creators–writer and director Maximilian Niemann who is studying commercial directing at Germany’s Filmakadamie Baden-Württemberg and producer Felix Faißt, a student in film production at the same film school–explain.

“We wanted to do advertising in another way–to create a brand experience, but one with a difference,” says Niemann. “There’s lots of brand content in Germany at the moment but little if any is great because even good ideas get overloaded by sales messages.”

The end result is a multi-level experience for desktop and tablet devices which re-works a genre brim-ful of clichés to directly involve the audience in a story inspired by the idea that the first symptom of infection–memory loss–becomes evident within just five minutes of being injured by a zombie.

As the main character, John, fights to survive by reaching for his memories the player must complete a series of tasks designed to keep John focused. Only if the user succeeds and John retains his memories will he survive.

“We love the creative possibilities of filmmaking. But we also love the unlimited possibilities of the internet. So our aim was to develop something that would combine the best of both,” Faißt explains.

On a shoestring budget provided by the film school, the pair scripted the storyline, plotted the user interactions, cast and filmed the live action then set about programming the interactive elements–a process which required them to create a custom-built HTML framework which would enable the experience to be accessible without having to download an app.


“Like many film students, they approached us for support, but did so with production so advanced, and their ideas so fully realized that the potential of what they were doing was irresistible,” Unit9 chairman and co-founder Piero Frescobaldi says.

“They were making something any top agency in the world would need to draw in the best creative talent to do, and it was looking great.”

The pair were equally at ease switching between filmmaking and coding techniques, Frescobaldi adds. Furthermore, they shared a clear understanding of the importance in storytelling of building emotional engagement – an essential skill but one often over-looked in favor of “technological gimmicks”, he adds.

Unit9–which partnered Save The Children to create the acclaimed viral ‘Most Shocking Second A Day Video’ to help raise support for victims of the war in Syria–agreed to help the pair finish off their production: adding final touches, cleaning up code, and so on, as well as hosting the experience online as part of its Unit9 Presents … initiative set up to support independent content and up and coming storytelling talent.

Meanwhile Casio-owned G-Shock, whose products are directly involved in the countdown action, agreed to endorse the Five Minutes brand experience and contribute a modest contribution towards production costs.

The end result is available to play online from November 19. Nieman and Faißt, meanwhile, are now available for commercial work through UNIT9–in between their course work.


About the author

Meg Carter is a UK-based freelance journalist who has written widely on all aspects of branding, media, marketing & creativity for a wide range of outlets including The Independent, Financial Times and Guardian newspapers, New Media Age and Wired.