Welcome to the third post in the series “Learning from Games”. In this series, I try to break apart some of the most unique games I’ve played. If this is your first time here, I recommend you start with the first post in the series. Let’s move on to today’s game.
Today, we’re going to talk about a very special game that surprised me in a lot of ways. I’ve just completed playing the game “Rise of the Tomb Raider” which has a play-time of around 14 hours (main campaign) and 8 hours more if you’re completing all the side missions and extras. Isn’t that a lot? While being the same guy who couldn’t wait for your food to completely cook before you eat or read a book/novel at one go, what makes you spend so much time playing these kinds of games? I’d say given an opportunity, any gaming enthusiast would love to complete this game in one long stretch (even though it is not advisable due to health-related issues).
One of the key elements that make video games irresistible is Story. Even Super Mario needed a love story to bounce on the turtles and reach the other end of the word. Video games have evolved with time and even their stories have. Today, we have many Hollywood writers who provide engaging stories for video games that makes them more memorable.
We always talk about making our courses engaging to the learners. I believe the best way to engage the learners is by creating a sense of ownership in them about the course they’re taking. I mean, if I strongly believe it is for me, I don’t need any one to tell me to do something about it because obviously, I will. But how do we create this ownership thing in their minds? How about instead of we telling them a story, we ask them to build one? Here’s a game that uses a similar technique to make the players develop their own story through an open-ended narrative which went on to bag several awards.
3. Her Story
Her Story is a fascinating game. It is the most involving experience I ever had in a video game.
What’s The Game About?
Her Story is a crime fiction game where the player will be browsing through recorded video clips from 7 separate interviews of a woman (Hannah Smith) whose husband has been missing. You cannot watch the interviews in their entirety, but only short video clips that’ll appear when you search using the terms you think might have been spoken in them. It’s a like a big jigsaw puzzle you’ll be solving by arranging the videos in a chronological order (in your mind) to understand the complete story and solve the case. This is a game that’ll put your listening skills to test. In fact, this is the only video game I’ve ever played with the help of a notebook and pen to write down the story as I understand it.
What Makes It Special?
- Open-ended Narrative: The game is very much open-ended and in a way, open to interpretation. There is no standard ending to the game where you’ll be watching a cut-scene that explains all that happened. You watch the video clips and try to interpret what could’ve happened to the husband. Don’t worry, this doesn’t go on forever. Once you’ve uncovered enough of the story, a chat window appears asking if you’re finished and then there’s this huge reveal in the story (do not want to spoil it for you). You can ping me if you think you don’t have time to play the game but still want to know what it is. 😊
- It’s all about Listening: There are hundreds of video clips (~274) to go through. But if you’re listening with concentration, you can complete the game quicker. Soon after you start the game, you’ll run out of terms to search. The interesting design aspect here is that, if you carefully listen to the video clips, you’ll have your clue about what’s going to be your next search term. For example, in one of the videos, Hannah talks about her twin sister Eve which obviously will be a good term to search next and see if there’s any connection to Eve with the incident. Like I said, this game really puts your listening skills to test.
- The Database Game-Mechanic: A narrative-based game going non-linear is not an easy thing to do. Instead of just listing all the videos for you to view, the game uses a database mechanic in which, you search for short video clips using the terms you believe would’ve been used by Hannah. This gives you a chance to get a little creative to reveal more from the story. For example, since this is a case of a missing husband, I started my search with terms like fight, divorce, kids, work, etc., Every time I search using a new term, I come across at least one new video clip I haven’t seen before. This is because of the intelligent design that allows the computer to display only five videos with the terms in chronological order. Also, the design of the old school computer feels very authentic with a reflection of lights from the wall behind on your monitor. That’s attention to detail! For a while, I felt like I’m using an age-old PC.
- The FMV Narration Technique: The game makes the best of use of Full Motion Videos (FMV) that feel very authentic. The video clips are the central gameplay elements which are enacted brilliantly by actor/musician Viva Seifert (she won a game award for best performance too). This is interactive storytelling at its best.
- You can’t control anything but are still in charge: Since you’re watching archived videos, you do not have the opportunity to ask any questions. It is a one-sided conversation and sometimes you feel frustrated not being able to ask her a follow-up question immediately. However, you’re still in charge of what you search, how you want to arrange the videos in a sequence to unravel the story and solve the mystery. It is your own personal logic that separates the truth from the lies to figure out what exactly happened. This no-tutorial experience gives you the ‘ownership’ feeling I was referring to initially in this post.
Successfully Utilized Game Elements:
- Non-linear, open-ended narrative
- Involving player by encouraging to always listen
- Authentic interface design
- Use of Full-motion Videos
- Full control to the player on how to go about the game
Her Story is a game made up of simple game mechanics and complex narrative structure. It encourages the players to put in some effort and pushes the boundaries of what video games are and could be. I recommend everyone to play this game for an experience that is unlike anything you’ve had before in a video game.
For more on the game, visit the game website. Please share your views in the comments section below.
See you in the next post!
Thanks for your time. 🙂