Games of 2015 no. 6: Her Story
You have sunk my battleship.
All I knew about Her Story when I started playing was that it involved a woman being interviewed on camera by the police. That's it. And I urge anyone who hasn't played the game to not only do so, but to do so similarly blind. Stitching together each thread created a sense of accomplishment that lodged the memory of this game powerfully in my mind. I made pages of notes; I thought I had to. I believed I was putting together a case, a collection of videos, to submit to court; me, some hotshot detective finding things where others had failed - as if any one would choose me for the job. But it meant I concentrated intensely, gave Her Story my whole attention, and tried my hardest to figure it all out.
What made Her Story great wasn't the story or the acting - not for me. What really dazzled me was the game's mechanic - the game's one single mechanic. I shake my head now thinking of it; it was so simple. Search for videos clips of interviews using key words. That's it. How can something like that dazzle somebody?
I'm that person - probably like a lot of people - who switches into devour mode towards the end of a book or game or telly show. I want it all now now now. I need to know what happens. But in games like The Witcher 3 and Dragon Age: Inquisition, which were major parts of my 2015 gaming year, there's an enforced pacing and procedure to how the story unfolds. You can't break that. All you can do is speed it up a bit, or bend it a bit. And that's true of a lot of games. But in Her Story the only limiting factors are the computer displaying a maximum of six results for each search, and you. Everything you need to unravel the story is theoretically accessible from the beginning, you just have to work out how to find it.
So as my brain fired and theories twanged around my head, the game was right there with me, keeping pace. Her Story let me run wild, let me gorge, let me devour it. How great to be given such freedom of experience, and how obvious it now seems, ceding complete narrative control to the player, because in doing so you bring a person that much more mindfully and actively into what you've created. That's what I really loved about Her Story.