Her Story has had an incredible amount of attention in the last few weeks. Coming seemingly out of nowhere, it has captured the imagination of many and been written about all over the place. It’s also something that is incredibly hard to talk about without spoilers, so you should only read further if you have played the game or have no intention of ever doing so.
Her Story is essentially a narrative device. Rather than reading or watching a story, you have to go and search for it yourself. Entering key words into a database, you get snippets of a series of interviews with the same women, talking about the disappearance of her husband. These videos soon reveal that said husband is dead and that there is a lot more to this women than meets the eye.
My experience of Her Story is unusual, because I have essentially seen the game played twice. Once by myself and once by my girlfriend after I convinced her to do so. Witnessing the game in this way has allowed it to show off just how clever it is, because the two of us had very different experiences playing it. I, as a player of video games and lover of horror and psychological movies, went in expecting twists and turns. I was constantly on the look out for what was wrong and quickly decided that I wasn’t interested in the murder, but rather this women. She went at it a different way. She treated it like an actual detective, solving the case not the person. This meant that we both went down very different routes and while she for a long time discovered a more straight forward murder case, her initial theory was that the husband was having an affair with his bosses wife, I quickly got to the root of the dual personality/twin conundrum at the centre of this story.
Which is great. For such a simple game to show up the slight differences in our personalities so subtly is very impressive and it was as interesting watching her play it as it had been to play it myself the first time round. She spent time noting down the different dates and outfits that the character was wearing, which was something that never even occurred to me. Even more importantly, once it was finished we wanted to talk about it. We needed to discuss what we had watched and the various theories that came to the fore. We even went to bed that night listening to Matt Lees and Steve Hogarty discuss it on Daft Souls.
However, there is still a problem with Her Story and it’s a problem that is brought up on that episode of Daft Souls. Her Story does tells an interesting story and it can be interpreted in so many different ways. Which is great, the best films and books do that same thing. However, it also leaves you unsatisfied. When you get to the point where you have either seen every video or are just fed up trying to pick up the last few, then the chances are you will still feel like you are still missing something. The disjointed nature of its narrative is unsatisfying and that is a problem.
Don’t get me wrong, unsatisfying narrative can be a good thing. On a TV show it is what keeps us coming back every week, needing to know what will happen next. However, this isn’t an episodic game. There is no next week. So instead of generating excitement, it left me feeling a bit hollow. There is so much about Hannah/Eve that I want to explore and find out more about and I’ll never get to do that and because of the way I was fed the information. In fact, that method left me felling like I know hardly anything at all. I’m not calling for big red writing exclaiming exactly what the answer to the story is, but I am craving something resembling a conclusion.
The closest it comes to doing that is the reveal that you are Hannah/Eve’s daughter and that is why you are spending hours trawling through the database. However, that just wasn’t enough for me. That doesn’t change the fact that Her Story is a fascinating game that does so many things right. It makes you want to talk about it and the fact that someone like my girlfriend, who has no interests in games at all, can play it and get so into it is great. It’s just a shame that that cleverness doesn’t do enough to leave me feeling fulfilled.