What I played in 2015: Her Story

I now realize that I am a True-Crime junkie. Whether it’s Serial or Making a Murderer or The Jinx, I’m instantly all about it. This is a realization that I am okay with. I’m okay with the fact that I like to listen and watch the real life suffering of other people for my enjoyment. I think it’s a part of human nature to indulge in a little schadenfreude from time to time.

So how do you translate that to games? How do you make the engrossing investigative process inherent to any true-crime story a gameplay mechanic? How do you make the linear nature of an investigation story non-linear?

These are all questions I hadn’t thought of asking before playing Her Story. I had been used to the linear nature of games that involved crime. You get placed into dramatic situation and the facts get doled out through cut scenes, as the game dictates. Never are the “facts” of a case, the testimonials, used as a gameplay mechanic.

And then Sam Barlow decided to try something weird.

I was familiar with his work after watching a play-through of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, which may be the best Silent Hill game that not a lot of people played. He was the lead designer and writer for that game. It had some very interesting mechanics on how you define your player character and how they impact the story and world. It also had one hell of a gut-punch ending.

So when I hear that this little out-of-nowhere indie game called Her Story was made by Barlow I was interested. I’m also always interested in “go into it blind” games, which I was hearing a lot about this one. And I’m going to tell you the same thing. Go into it blind.

As such, I can’t really talk about it anymore than that. I can tell you it’s about a murder investigation, and you are searching for video clips to piece the story together. I can also tell you that I think the mechanics in which you unveil the narrative and the freedom you have to build the narrative in your mind is absolutely unique. I’ve never played a game remotely like this. Finally, I can tell you that Barlow answered those questions I had earlier. He translated the experience of being engaged in a true-crime story to an open ended game.

Also, good on them for winning some big awards late last year, they deserve it. I really hope this isn’t a flash in the pan.