Her Story is a recent indie game from Sam Barlow (Silent Hill: Shattered Memories) that weaves together an incredible story with video clips. It’s an interesting work of interactive fiction, and definitely accessible to all gamers regardless of their skill levels.
In fact, if you can type search terms into Google, you can play this game.
The conceit behind the game is that you are some sort of journalist or investigator following up on an old case from the mid-nineties. To do this you must sift through short video clips of a woman being interviewed and enter new query terms into the search engine to bring up more pieces of the interviews. They are multiple interviews done over multiple days, all chopped into clips that are seconds to minutes long.
The videos are videos of an actual woman (actress Viva Seifert), hearkening back to the days of full motion video games (FMV). Only this time the videos are actually decent quality, even if the interface we’re given to interact with them is a recreation of Windows 3.1, the OS of choice when FMVs were in their heyday.
There are no instructions as such when you start the game. There are only a couple of clips from different dates and a short README.TXT on the desktop. The first search term has been entered for you: MURDER. Each time you enter a new search term, a maximum of 8 clips are shown, so you are forced to constantly enter new terms and investigate every possible clue in order to get the full story.
I found that as I progressed through the game my key words were getting more and more random as I exhausted the usual suspects and just started typing anything I could think of that could be connected to a crime. The lack of instructions can be a little alienating as you start to run out of key words, but the game is actually a lot simpler than it seems on the outset. There are no real puzzles to solve, just a story to absorb and decipher in dribs and drabs, all out of order and context.
The game comes somewhere between an interactive novel and an investigation simulator, where clear clues can only be interpreted with later information, but even the chronology of the interviews has to be discovered gradually. The result is a game that feels less like a game and more like a completely new way of telling stories.
The whole game can be played in about 2 – 3 hours, although it may take longer to unlock all of the video clips. I feel like I was able to get the full story with only about 80% of the clips unlocked.
While the resulting story may seem too fantastical to be plausible, that seems to be the comment the game maker is making about storytelling. No matter how we dress it up with technology and interfaces, a story is, after all, just a story.
Her Story is available on Steam for $5.99 ($6.49 CDN)