“You know that feeling…. where the first moment you see someone, it’s like they have a big gold star around them? And you have to get to know them. Well, there’s this girl… I think she’s a senior. She’s usually dressed, kinda punk. But sometimes I see her in this, like - army uniform, and she’s always drawing in this notebook, looking so intense. I had no idea how I would ever… like, have an excuse to talk to her, til’ I noticed she and her friends hang out and play street fighter at the seven eleven every day after school.”
Hey! So I am working on a game with Johnnemann Nordhagen (who previously worked on Gone Home and Bioshock 2) on a new game called “Where the Water Tastes Like Whine”. It is about telling stories and travelling accross a dreamlike version of America. These are a few of the initial pieces of concept art. Hope you guys like it. We will have more to show and say in the future.
A couple sites covered our announcement. You can read those here:
“A third-person exploration game centered around two parallel stories: a fox trying to find her missing family, and a young couple dealing with a death in theirs. Players take control of the fox on a poignant and beautiful journey that crescendos at the source of life, and perhaps results in the understanding of death.
“Along the way, players can uncover artifacts and stories from the young couple’s life as they too become intertwined in the fox’s journey towards The First Tree.”
The game is story driven in the same vein as Firewatch and Gone Home. This is still really early in development with a scheduled release sometime in 2017. Figured I would make a mini post today. The developer previously made Home is Where One Starts.
Two games came out in 2013 based almost entirely on walking around a building and listening to voices. One of these was met with a barrage of accusations that it wasn’t really a game, and one was not. One of these was also about a young gay woman, and one was not.
This isn’t the post I wanted to write about The Fullbright Company’s excellent Gone Home, but here it is. What follows are serious spoilers for one of the game’s most nebulous mysteries. Please don’t read ahead until you’re sure you don’t want to put the pieces together yourself.
I sobbed because the closing beat of the narrative moved me to tears but also because I finally felt my own queer womanhood reflected back at me within the context of a fully realized game world. Queer women are so often rendered invisible or consigned to the margins of representation. But Gone Home put a queer woman front and center and allowed me to breathe in the lush details of her story for an entire evening.
My tears kept coming because I never expected to find this breath of fresh air in a video game. It’s not that Gone Home is the first video game to contain queer themes.
One girl picked up my notebook once, looked at a story I was writing (I think I was reading Anne Rice at the time so it was probably long, flowery sentences about aloof men I was yet to meet and fall in love with) and she scored it all out and wrote ‘GROSS’ on it, whereby another psychological terrorism campaign was probably launched. It took me eight years of constant secret writing after that to show anyone what I’d written ever again. I still write long, flowery sentences about men, only now people seek me out and pay me for the privilege of publishing them. If no one had ever acted this way towards me, I would have published stories at seventeen. If I’d had an ounce of confidence left by the time I left school, I’d have at least shown an adult something I had written.
All of these psychological tortures are tortures that society itself still enacts upon women as fully grown adults. The bullies become everyone – advertising, randos on the internet, and media especially – apart from the people who can see the Matrix, those who sometimes deign to make a kind effort to pull you out of it and show you the code. Once upon a time it was probably put in place by an accidental patriarchy, but now this machine just rumbles on by itself, and women as well as men enforce the idea that a woman’s appearance is fair game to constantly police, that her sexual status is incredibly important (Mrs vs Miss until Ms) to speculate on and ridicule her about, to use it to undermine her ability to be thought a professional at any stage. Some women are still trapped in the high school maliciousness of competition, so much so that they might always hate those women who are content with themselves.
I never liked girls growing up. I had a little brother and no sisters, my brother was my best friend, and the girls at school treated me with contempt. I wanted to be a boy, because everyone admired boys, and everyone let them do what they liked. I had to learn to inhabit my body and like it. I had to learn to forgive women. I had to learn to forgive myself for being born a woman.
Cara’s piece on Gone Home has been sitting in a tab on my laptop since RPS first published, and I’ve finally read it. Strong and startling stuff taking in everything from Top Gun, the cruelties of teenage girls and putting things back where they belong.
I saw a post earlier on tumblr that asked something along the lines of “If you’re going to make a game with little gameplay but a lot of narrative why make it a game at all??” This post has been driving up a wall all dang day so I wanted to address it.
I guess my first response is “why not????” Like why limit games in such a way?? The existence of games like this doesn’t hinder games a whole at all and I would argue that games like these push the boundaries of what a game is and just make gaming a much more exciting thing.
To me, the answer of this question lies in the fact that games just have so much narrative potential that other mediums don’t have. A game puts you directly in the shoes of the main character. Outside of cutscenes, the player character only does things because the player makes them do so. This creates a level of empathy that film and literature have trouble of obtaining. This narrative power exists in gameplay heavy games like Deus Ex, which for example makes the player feel some sort of guilt if/when Jock dies because it turns out that his death is completely preventable, but also in games like Gone Home or To The Moon which lack both the traditional gameplay and level of narrative choice that a game like Deus Ex has.
I’m going to use Gone Home as example because it seems to be the game that gets that most shit for lacking “gameplay” and I just happen to like it a lot. Gone Home as is would be a terrible movie. A woman walks around an empty house and reads her sister’s diary. Wow. Cool. And even if you completely removed Katie in the film version and just showed Sam’s story it would still be a good story but I don’t think it would’ve had the same impact it did as a game. Part of the appeal to Gone Home it’s setting. You never meet a single character in Gone Home but you still get to know them fairly well because you get to explore their living space. You get to learn all of these small and large details about these characters because of the exploration that can only exist in Gone Home because it is a game. And while the player has no influence on the actual narrative of the game they have control over how much of the narrative of the game they interact with. A player could focus just on Sam’s story but if they want to dig deeper they can find out a lot about Sam and Katie’s parents. Optional narratives like this can’t exist in mediums as straight forward as literature and film.
In short, the reason there are games that focus on telling a story rather providing a lot of traditional gameplay is simply because, if done correctly, the interactive experience a game provides can be a damn great way to tell a story.