Fans of crime stories that blur the line between fiction and reality rejoice! Sam Barlow’s Her Story is now being supported by the Indie Fund. A game about reopening a cold case set within a lovingly-crafted period interface, no other game has focused so unforgivingly on the words of a single “NPC.” It’s a game that rewards a certain kind of detective work on the part of the player, the type of work that we don’t often see on the screens of popular drama. Through careful listening, cross-reference, and archiving, you’ll begin to forge a version of the truth that others have failed to see.
It’s a bit like watching a TV show where the scenes are connected by your own ingenuity and logic rather than the dramatic missteps of others. Yet Her Story also forces the player to question their excitement for the cold dissection of an alien subjectivity—here played with nuanced desperation by Barlow’s friend and collaborator Viva Seifert.
Indie Fund partner Ron Carmel describes his experience: “Her Story came across like a nostalgic toy to me, at first. I remember that CRT glare and those ASCII UIs that tried to look like Windows 3.0. But as I watched more videos, I was drawn in not only by wanting to understand the unfolding story, but by the detail and craftsmanship of the game. The acting is convincing and reinforces the constructed reality, and with costume changes and time codes in the videos there were multiple layers to pay attention to in guiding my investigation. Before I knew it I had an actual pen in my hand and was taking notes on the back of an envelope that was laying around on my desk.”
Barlow is best known for his role as the lead designer and writer of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, a complete reimagining of the series that stands as one of the great Wii games. Prior to his time in AAA development, Sam invented a unique subgenre of interactive fiction with 1999’s Aisle; it’s a game that only lets you make one move—think of it as The Garden of Forking Paths for grocery shopping. His passion for exploring the many possibilities of nonlinear storytelling has paid off, and in March Her Story was honored as one of the Leftfield Collection at EGX Rezzed.
So congratulate Sam on entering the home stretch in his development process! Her Story is launching simultaneously for iOS and PC/Mac in June of this year. If you’d like to read Sam’s thoughts on interactivity and narrative, check out his articles on the Her Story blog (the piece about FMV games and the crucial domesticity of early video is especially good). Otherwise, follow him on Twitter for news and musings on the project.