Critical Play: Her Story

Her Story

Her Story is an interactive video game written by Sam Barlow. In the game, the player searches through a database of video clips from police interviews of Hannah Smith to solve the case of a missing man.

Emerging narrative through clips

The game centers on video clips that allow for a constantly evolving narrative. As you begin to piece together the events leading to the man’s disappearance, you find new search terms that reveal more clips. All together, this evidence allows the player to formulates and test theories around what happened.

Players piece together clips to uncover what happened

An open-ended puzzle

Unlike most games in this genre, the game has no formal conclusion. It is up to the player to interpret the evidence presented to them. This has led to many online discussions where players theorize and argue over the evidence presented. Though there is a widely accepted theory to what happened, the magic is in the open-ended conclusion, leading to a magical and compelling mystery-solving experience.

Structure to progress the player forward

The core loop of uncovering video clips → finding new evidence → modifying hypothesis → repeat is what adds needed structure to a largely unstructured narrative. This limits the scope of the game, and gives players a feeling of progression forward. Without this loop, the game can quickly devolve into a frustrating experience that feels more like “work” than like “fun.” For example, if players do not uncover new evidence within each new loop, players would quickly feel stuck.

The “eye” icon indicates to the player if new clips have been uncovered through their queries

Immersion through a novel POV

The game shines in its novel game perspective, where you act as a detective searching through a police database of clips. This creates a compelling and immersive narrative that feels realistic and genuine. The approach is fresh and innovative, which even has perplexed players on whether or not this actually constitutes a game, or if it is more of a film. In any case, it is uniquely immersive and compelling.

Searching through the database

Try it yourself

Her Story is a wonderful approach to the classic mystery genre. Through its mechanics, it creates an immersive and rich narrative in which the story unfolds the more you play and explore. Try it yourself here!

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The focus of CS 247G is an introduction to theory and practice of the design of games. We make games (digital, paper, or otherwise), do rapid iteration, and run user research studies appropriate to game design with the goal of improving and refining our design instincts.

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Tyler T. Su

Tyler T. Su

Design + Engineering @ Stanford | Incoming Product Designer @ Roblox

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