“…because love is continual interrogation. I don’t know of a better definition of love.” – Milan Kundera
Developer: Sam Barlow
Released: June 2015
Price: £4.99 (Windows/Mac/iOS), £4.69 (Android)
Her Story, ‘a game about a woman talking to the police’, is a non-linear, interactive crime fiction game. The premise is seemingly straightforward, with the game granting the player access to an old, relegated computer and its police database. They must then sift through a plentiful array of video clips from a series of interviews in order to piece together the narrative. The initial query has already been entered in the search bar – murder.
The story is set in 1994, and the UI is appropriately old school in appearance, complete with major screen glare, though this can be turned off! The interviews have time and date stamps and it is clear they took place over June and July of the same year and range from 1-2 minutes to a mere 3 seconds in length.
The way the story is ‘told’ couldn’t be less linear- autonomy is placed entirely in the hands of the player, controlling the UI and narrative with and by entering search terms, or combinations thereof, and selecting which videos to watch and in what order.
The selection and order of information delivered to the player can greatly impact the interpretation of the narrative allowing for a vast array of possibilities. For example, during my first playthrough, I shunned the pre-set first search, deleted ‘murder’ and instead searched for ‘death’, I then proceeded with a further 68 successful searches, including things such as ‘body’, ‘blood’ and even ‘fennel’!
Styling and Story
Her Story throws around some red herrings, multiple times it seemed the mystery was starting to make sense only for new information to suddenly appear and that blew any existing theories to smithereens! On reflection, after completing the game, the overall story and sequence of events being recounted become much clearer, but certainly not definitive. The various interviews are intentionally broken into clips that lend themselves to uncertainty with key details that are scattered throughout.
The one-woman cast consists of the talented Viva Seifert, who did a great job of portraying a really ambiguous character and maintaining the mystery. The character was believable, though her words were not always! She manages to evoke sympathy whilst also seeming untrustworthy, adding to the confusion presented by the story itself.
Her Story tackles some heavy themes in its own way and can get pretty dark at times, including some sinister twists and turns that will have the player questioning the motives and morals of a good portion of the game’s characters!
All in, I spent a little under 4.5 hours playing, saw 100% of the clips, and managed to reach a conclusion – albeit one that is intentionally open to interpretation. For the more than reasonable price of £4.99, I’d definitely recommend Her Story, especially to anyone that particularly likes narrative-driven experiences.
If you enjoyed Her Story, I’d also recommend researching fan theories, it was fascinating to see how others interpreted the game – but only AFTER you’ve played! Additionally, Sam Barlow’s new (and more extensive) FMV game, Telling Lies, was released in August this year on a range of platforms.