written by David Steffen

herstoryHer Story is a keyword searching mystery game developed by Sam Barlow and released in 2015.

The game begins with you looking at a console program on what appears to be a Windows 95 machine.  The program has a search box with the word “murder” in it, and 4 video clips are shown as search results–it is a police video archival program.  Each of the videos are samples from interviews of a woman after the disappearance and apparent murder of her husband Simon.  The videos only show her answers to questions, but not the questions themselves, and the videos are all transcribed and searchable for keywords, but for each search you can only view up to five video results.
20161230132335_1What actually happened?  If you can find enough of the videos in the database, taken from 7 different interviews, you’ll be able to piece together the story and figure out everything.  As you learn more you will gather more ideas about what to search for–people’s names, location names, or key objects that might be referenced as evidence are all of especial importance, since those are likely to be the topic of interview questions.  The game is finished when you have watched enough of the videos to piece together what happened–you can keep playing to find all of the videos if you like.

The lone actor in the game is Viva Seifert, who I thought did a good job of portraying the character–you feel like you know her by the end, and her little conversational and behavioral quirks.

20161230131356_1The game is a really interest take on storytelling, watching a story out of order and told by a possibly unreliable narrator.  You hear the story in associative order rather than chronological and that makes it quite interesting. It makes you think about the problems with hearing just part of a story out of context. Trying to think of new keywords to search feels sort of like you’re participating in the interviews, trying to figure out what questions to ask.

Video footage on top of a Windows 95 style interface, appropriate for the story.

Just the voice that goes with the recordings.

Not challenging in the way that most games are, but it makes you think in a different way–trying to figure out keywords is kindof like trying to figure out what questions to ask in an interrogation.  Trying to uncover the whole story takes some work, but mostly is about perseverence and wanting to find out the whole story.

The game is pretty much ALL story, with the element of a possible unreliable narrator (police interview regarding a murder investigation gives an air of unreliable narrator).  So story is everything for this, and uncovering it piece by piece.

Session Time
The game keeps track of what videos you’ve watched, and it keeps the result of your most recent query loaded if you quit and bring it up again, so it’s easy to shut down and pick up where you left off.  Most of the videos are pretty short, sometimes as much as a few minutes, but often only a few seconds, so it’s pretty easy to take  a break within a couple of minutes.

Simple controls–just a text searching window, then click on video to play, can add keywords to help searching control.  If you can use any kind of graphical user interface, you should be able to use this pretty easily.

Once you have watched a certain portion of the videos, then the game offers you the chance to reach the ending.  Beyond that there is still some extra playing in terms of trying to find all of the videos, so there’s a bit of replaying (if not much).  This extra play is facilitated in that when you reach the ending, you get some codes to be able to view up to 15 results instead of 5, or to view a random video.  Note that if you want to see all of the videos, I believe it’s necessary to use the random video command to reach a few of them.

Never seen another game based around keyword searching in video archives, so definitely felt very original to me.

The game took about 3 hours for me to find all of the videos.  This felt like a good length because I was finding interesting new footage to the end.

Neat original idea.  The possibly unreliable narrator coupled with hearing the story in basically associative order rather than chronological made it interesting to try to find more pieces of the story to get the whole picture.  This had me engrossed from beginning to end.  $6 on Steam.