Thursday, January 14, 2016

'Her Story' by Sam Barlow

14 January 2016

It's taken more than 10 years for me to get round to reviewing a computer game here but this week I have become hooked on 'Her Story' – a narrative game for PC, Mac and iOS, written and directed by Sam Barlow and starring the actor Viva Seifert. Although it is packaged and sold as a game, 'Her Story' feels more like a TV detective serial, albeit with a high level of interactivity as you can watch the story unfolding in an almost infinite number of permutations. You use a 1990s Windows desktop to access a database of short video clips which show a woman answering questions in a police interview room. She has come to the police station to her report her husband as missing but there seems to be much more to her story. The video clips are mostly less than a minute long and rather than watching them in straightforward chronological order you select individual clips by typing terms into a search box. This allows you to piece together what has happened by picking up on particular names or words from a previous answer and investigating them further. You never hear the police questions – just the interviewee's answers. And a timecode indicates that the database seems to contain several different interviews with the same woman over a period of weeks in the summer of 1994. The story is very cleverly constructed: even if you stumble across a vital clue very early on you won't appreciate its significance until much later. It's very satisfying as you begin to make sense of the mystery and test your theories by further word searches. But there is a strong element of ambiguity which I suspect means that you may never clarify every detail of the plot. And just as you think you've got it all worked out you begin to realise that you are playing a specific role in this story yourself. 'Her Story' is a rather brilliant exercise in non-linear narrative – intriguingly addictive.



Post a Comment

<< Home