What is it?
Her Story is the new video game from Sam Barlow, creator of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories and Aisle. A crime fiction game with non-linear storytelling, Her Story revolves around a police database full of live action video footage. It stars Viva Seifert, actress and one half of the band Joe Gideon and the Shark.
Her Story’s development was made possible by the support of the Indie Fund. The game is available on PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad and Android devices.
How does it work?
Her Story grants players access to a police database of archived video footage that covers seven interviews from 1994 in which a British woman is interviewed by detectives about her missing husband. Players take on the role of the person sat before a police computer terminal, their own computer or device playing the part of the fictional computer. They type search queries and the database returns clips of the answers where the woman speaks those words.
Sam Barlow says, “If you can Google, you can play Her Story. The mechanic of searching for clips in the database is so simple that anyone can pick up and play. But it’s a mechanic that quickly reveals its richness and complexity. At times it can feel like you’re engaged in a genuine dialogue with this woman and her story. It’s a unique way to interact with a narrative, a sculptural way of viewing a story — and something that can only be done interactively.”
Referring to the use of live action video in the game, a novelty in modern videogames, Barlow says “The aesthetic is True Detective via Blair Witch. I’m interested in showing that accessible technologies such as video offer a powerful way for indie games to showcase a performance. I am also putting the spotlight on the modern phenomena of the Youtube Jury, in which police forces distribute the footage of intimate suspect interviews for armchair detectives to dissect. You see it in cases such as those of Jodi Arias and Amanda Knox — cases where the suspects’ stories themselves get lost amongst the torrent of cliches and prejudices that the videos elicit.”
Her Story shares many touchstones with Barlow’s earlier games. Its non-linear delivery is reminiscent of the fragmented narrative of his cult text game Aisle, which also featured a simple text interface that led to hidden depths. The VHS aesthetic is familiar from the award winning Silent Hill: Shattered Memories — and the use of the police interview setting in Her Story recalls the psychiatric interviews from that game.
About Sam Barlow
Sam Barlow is a UK-based writer and video game director. After early flirtations with self-published interactive fiction, most notably the cult text game Aisle in 1999, Barlow had a short lived career on the East Coast of America in the business intelligence industry. There he worked for Microstrategy, the company founded by visionary entrenpreneur Michael Saylor. Whilst there, Barlow enjoyed exploring the “found stories” secreted away within the collosal consumer databases of its clients, something that gave him a taste for non-linear digital narratives that has informed Her Story. After the dot com crash, Barlow returned to the UK where he decided to find a more stable employment — and joined the videogame industry.
At Climax Studios, continuing to bang the drum for interactive narrative, Barlow eventually got his hands on a property that allowed him to bring to life some of his longheld ideas: Silent Hill. With 2009’s Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, Barlow and the team at Climax broke new ground in subject matter and technique, pulling players into the moving and cathartic story of Harry and Cheryl Mason. The game received many critical raves and continues to be held up as a shining example of the kinds of stories only games can tell.
After Shattered Memories Barlow spent several years working on an ambitious, big budget epic that was cancelled mid-development as the industry wobbled ahead of the transition to the new generation of consoles. In 2014, Barlow left Climax and set up as an independent in order to tell the types of stories that are neglected in the mainstream games industry.
About Viva Seifert
Viva Seifert is an actress and musician. She is one half of the avant-blues band Joe Gideon and the Shark. Their debut album Harum Skarum was described as ‘Astonishing’ by the NME. Barlow and Seifert first met when he cast her as a resurrected saint in a fantasy videogame. Her role in Her Story is more of a stretch.
Highlights of Her Story’s press coverage:
- GAMES™ – “18 Must-Watch Indie Games” – Games™ put Her Story at No. 5 in their list of 18 top indie titles
- BOING BOING OFFWORLD – “All you have is video of a woman talking to the cops. Is she guilty?” – In depth look at Her Story and Barlow’s intentions from Leigh Alexander
- THE GUARDIAN – “Her Story: the computer game where True Detective meets Google” – Barlow talks about the game and the state of play in videogame storytelling
- ROCK, PAPER, SHOTGUN – “Text, Lies And Videotape: Her Story Interview” – Detailed discussion about Her Story and Barlow’s previous games
- EUROGAMER – “Her Story is a ‘desktop thriller’ True Detective fans can get behind” – Barlow talks about the game and its influences
- POLYGON – “Her Story is a Serial-style mystery, blending FMV and adventure games” – Polygon in conversation with Barlow
- FUTURE OF GAMING – “Her Story, as told by Sam Barlow: The Shattered Memories writer on female leads, non-linearity and reclaiming the FMV game” – Her Story featured in a series looking at the top titles of 2015 for Virgin Media’s Future of Gaming EGX strand
- EDGE – “Why Climax’s Sam Barlow is going independent to develop crime fiction title Her Story” – Barlow talks about his move to independent development
- EDGE – “My big hope for the coming years is that indies explore a lot of the stuff that’s not getting touched upon in games – unreliable narrators, making the protagonist unlikeable, exploring fragmented narratives, different structures…” – An interview ahead of the Glasgow Film Festival panel on videogame stories — with Barlow touching on many of the themes that would come together in Her Story.
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Screenshots & Images
Download the images in one handy .zip here.
For re-hosting, download the trailer here.