Her Story: A game about a 20-year-old crime
June 29, 2015 9:23 AM   Subscribe

In June, 1994, a man goes missing. His wife makes a series of interviews with police. Those interviews form the basis of the recently released title Her Story, an FMV-style game that tasks the player with digging through hours of video to determine what happened, and how, and why.

Developed by Sam Barlow, Her Story is receiving almost universal accolades for its unconventional form, non-linear narrative, and the performance of Viva Seifert in the lead - and only - role. It's available now for Mac, Windows, and iOS.
posted by ZaphodB (65 comments total) 66 users marked this as a favorite
Giant Bomb's Austin Walker has a great super in-depth interview with Sam Barlow about the game. No spoilers, though I think it's more meaningful if you've already played the game.

GB also did a 20-minute Quick Look, minor spoiler warnings apply.
posted by kmz at 9:37 AM on June 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

I think TouchArcade had the best headline for this game: Turns Out FMV Games Just Needed Good Acting And Good Writing.

Between this, the incredible success of Five Nights at Freddy's, and the continuing rise of low-poly aesthetic, I am very much enjoying the tide of retro-influenced games turning from pixel art platformers and to the weirder and more esoteric video game milieu of the 1990s.
posted by griphus at 9:40 AM on June 29, 2015 [5 favorites]

"Digging through hours of full motion video to uncover a mystery" is the least likely description of a game that I thought I'd ever hear again.
posted by clorox at 9:42 AM on June 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh man, I really want somewhere to talk about this game, but pretty much any discussion with any substance to it is just going to be hugely spoilery. I don't normally get too antsy about spoilers, but this is a game where the entire experience is about you intuiting and interpreting what you uncover. Even the vaguest hints are going to affect how you play it.

I will say that it's excellent. It's short, cheap, and I've never played anything else quite like it.
posted by figurant at 9:43 AM on June 29, 2015 [9 favorites]

Ooo, this looks like it's fulfilling the promise of both those bonkers murder mystery FMV games I plaid in the 90s
posted by The Whelk at 9:44 AM on June 29, 2015

Such a good game.
posted by pmbuko at 9:44 AM on June 29, 2015

It's so hard to talk about this game without spoiling, but it is excellent. Particularly how it's completely non-linear and yet the twists and turns of the narrative still work so well. Are games allowed on FanFare?!
posted by sonmi at 9:45 AM on June 29, 2015

If the concept of this game is at all interesting to you, read nothing more about it and just go play. The less you know the better. You'll have opportunities afterwards to dig into details you may believe you have missed. The interview with Austin Walker linked at the beginning of this thread does an admirable job of spoiling as little as possible.

I loved the shit out of this game, for what that's worth.
posted by penduluum at 9:50 AM on June 29, 2015

I've seen over 50% of the video clips at this point.

I really, really love this game. No matter which direction you go, it comes across as a very twisty mystery and is simply thrilling and engaging. Even banal statements can later be re-interpreted as meaning something else entirely.

My only piece of advice: if you are taking notes, and everyone I know spontaneously created some sort of notes system, track which interview (which shirt/date) any given statement comes from.

And stop reading about it if you want to play it.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 9:57 AM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

I agree with everyone here - i thought this would be the last game in the world that I'd actually enjoy, but it's brilliant - so carefully and beautifully structured. The way the narrative is controlled is incredibly impressive. Don't read anything about it - just play it.
posted by silence at 9:58 AM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh man. I didn't realize until now that this is the kind of game I've wanted to play for my entire life. Now I'm going to try my hardest to avoid reading anything else about it until I can play it.
posted by roll truck roll at 10:02 AM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh man, I completely agree with the comments above about not spoiling things. The post's a little spare because I was hoping that people would get to go into the game with as little prior knowledge as possible, and the three reviews are some of the least spoiler-y I could find. This game has had me utterly enthralled for days. Every writable surface within reach of my computer - receipts, envelopes, the back of an empty Amazon box - is absolutely covered with random dates, words and names. It probably looks a little worrying.

Also, I was waiting and hoping that someone would post about this but I've enjoyed the game SO MUCH that I figured I'd just have to do it myself. This is my second FPP ever, which means I'm averaging one post per 5.3 years of membership. See you on the front page in fall 2020, everybody!
posted by ZaphodB at 10:02 AM on June 29, 2015 [5 favorites]

It is defintely worth a look. It's excellent.

WARNING THOUGH: "Delete session data" in the options menu does NOT clear out your "clips stored in user session". ...Well, it does, but not in the way you might want it to.
posted by rifflesby at 10:03 AM on June 29, 2015 [5 favorites]

As much as I hate just adding another voice to the choir, this game *must* be experienced, is unfortunately easily spoiled, and it's cheap and will run on any hardware. You should play it, and you should play it as soon as is possible without reading anything else about it. One of the best games in...maybe ever, but it's far, far too soon to say that meaningfully.
posted by alphagator at 10:04 AM on June 29, 2015

Okay, okay! I'll go play it! But this better not be another Night Trap
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:05 AM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Was the story of that horrible Night Trap remake Kickstarter ever FPP'd?
posted by griphus at 10:08 AM on June 29, 2015

I'm taking both pretty exhaustive notes in both in-game tagging, and black bound real life notebook. I'm still early-ish in my inquiries, and going in left-field tangents, as opposed to where I think the game is steering me. That gameplay tact is proving quite exciting.
posted by chainlinkspiral at 10:13 AM on June 29, 2015

I do not have time for this. And yet... I must play it. Maybe this will scratch the itch that Under a Killing Moon didn't (speaking of FMV trainwrecks).
posted by uncleozzy at 10:30 AM on June 29, 2015

Took me two hours to play this from start to "finish" on Saturday night. Still went back in Sunday morning to fill in some of the blanks and when I get the time this week I'm going to try to fill in the rest.

Glad I knew nothing about it going in except that it was some kind of mystery with videos.
posted by eyeballkid at 10:40 AM on June 29, 2015

So glad to see this FPP. It is on my iPad now and I look forward to playing it.
posted by bearwife at 10:52 AM on June 29, 2015

I don't play games at all, but this looks so interesting! As a playwright, I'm very interested in new ways of telling stories, and this looks so very cool.
posted by xingcat at 10:57 AM on June 29, 2015

This game definitely deserves attention. I was really hesitant because I generally hate cutscenes and FMV in games ("I SHOULD BE PLAYING NOT WATCHING AND ALSO YOU'RE A BAD ACTOR AND YOUR DIALOG IS TERRIBLY WRITTEN"), but this completely worked for me. At the end, I had pages of notes and felt like I had a really unique experience.
posted by frenetic at 11:20 AM on June 29, 2015

Finished this last night. Really enjoyed it - sure, it's ultimately a fairly small game, but I paid less than the price of a beer & had a good time, so what's not to like?

How about a fanfare post for discussion with spoilers?
posted by pharm at 11:29 AM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

ps. Discovered this morning that the tune she plays is a real folk story / song & not composed for the game at all!
posted by pharm at 11:30 AM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also, Viva Seifert is 43. 43! There's a painting in her loft slowly decaying I'm telling you.
posted by pharm at 11:34 AM on June 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

I was also going to plead for video games on fanfare. I like mefightclub, but I can see many more people participating here.

I haven't played this game yet, but I want your gwent strategies, dammit!
posted by bibliowench at 11:40 AM on June 29, 2015

plaid in the 90s

q.v.: #1
posted by fairmettle at 12:11 PM on June 29, 2015

There's a thread over on MeFight Club (the unofficial MeFi gaming site) for all your spoilery discussion needs.
posted by Mr. Pokeylope at 12:54 PM on June 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

This has been a really fun game to play with my wife and I as co-detectives. She takes written notes for clues and search terms we should try, while I use the in-game tagging and search system, and we share theories and insights. It's so cool. I definitely think this game is co-op friendly, especially with those that got caught up in Serial or True Detective or the like, even if they are non-gamers.

As the game allows you to forge your own way through the clips, I'll be curious to hear how many people experience strange paths. I've found a series of three search terms that someone could plausibly use at the start of the game, and it leads directly to one of the more revelatory clips. I can't imagine how I'd approach the game if I had that information in the first 5 minutes.

I wish there were more games like this, ones in the ~$5 range, and 2-5 hours of total play time. The central mechanic is novel, and doesn't overstay its welcome. The game focuses in on accomplishing one thing very well, which is so rare to see.
posted by Skephicles at 1:07 PM on June 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

The game is really great, and totally worth 5 bucks for the ~2 hours of play time I got out of it. At least three or four times I used a search term that brought forth a video that completely illuminated some aspect of the mystery. It was incredibly satisfying.
posted by graventy at 3:23 PM on June 29, 2015

Devonian: But I don't play games
Devonian: I don't even like mystery genr...
Devonian: Oh, OK, OK..

It's available now for Mac, Windows, and iOS

Devonian:(looks at Linux and Android machinery) Told you.
posted by Devonian at 3:46 PM on June 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

Thanks for the post. Just played it and enjoyed it. And yes, I see why it's very difficult to talk about without spoiling it. The actress was amazing.
posted by misozaki at 7:38 PM on June 29, 2015

Based on the recommendation from thread, I purchased Her Story on Steam. I can't get any of the videos to play, though -- is that what's supposed to happen? Like, I have the LOGIC interface in front of me, I can click on the videos, but when I press the "Play" button, I just get a black screen. If I click somewhere in the screen, I get a blue bar at the top with an X, and when I click the X, I return to the LOGIC interface. Am I missing something?
posted by tickingclock at 8:35 PM on June 29, 2015

tickingclock, I don't suppose one of the conditions listed here applies to you? You may want to look into a refund.
posted by figurant at 10:12 PM on June 29, 2015

Ah, I have now finished it. Great game!! We definitely need a new thread with spoilers or to turn this one into a spoiler one.
posted by bearwife at 11:23 PM on June 29, 2015

Her story is super great and if all the other people saying this haven't been sufficient: if you have an interest in playing it absolutely don't read anything more about it. There are reviews out there that spoil stuff, without, even, any appropriate warning.
posted by juv3nal at 2:19 AM on June 30, 2015

Oh boy the FPP sounded intriguing and then I read the comments and find out everyone takes notes while playing? This is my kinda game. Off to grab it, will return to this thread (or wherever spoilery discussion ends up) when I'm done.
posted by harriet vane at 4:17 AM on June 30, 2015

This has been a really fun game to play with my wife and I as co-detectives

This is a really great idea. I don't play too many games anymore, and my wife doesn't at all, but I think we'd have fun working through this one together (plus it's cheaper than a month of Netflix). I'm going to have to resist the temptation to play without her, though.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:22 AM on June 30, 2015

Me after playing for 30 minutes: "I must remember the actress from this game. I'd really like to see her in other stuff. Oh my god, we're finally living in the future."
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:18 AM on June 30, 2015

This has been a really fun game to play with my wife and I as co-detectives.

Which one of you was the weary, by-the-book veteran and which was the rules-bending loose cannon?
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:52 AM on June 30, 2015 [9 favorites]

This was a good game. Great value. You can grasp what has happened/is happening and still have a lot of questions. I wouldn't mind more games like this at all.
posted by koucha at 8:12 AM on June 30, 2015

Okay, I played through this last night! The acting was excellent, it was thoroughly engrossing, and totally worth the fiver, but V jnf n yvggyr qvfnccbvagrq gung lbh riraghnyyl svaq pyvcf bs jung nzbhagf gb n pbasrffvba/rkcynangvba (naq lbh pna svaq gurz cerggl rneyl ba va gur vairfgvtngvba, gbb) naq nera'g erdhverq gb pbzr hc jvgu lbhe bja pbapyhfvba nobhg jung unccrarq.
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:05 AM on June 30, 2015

Okay, I'm skipping most of the comments to avoid spoilers as suggested, but I do have a question. I have some trouble with auditory processing, and the quality of the audio in the trailer combined with her accent (different from mine) made it really hard for me to understand anything she was saying. Is the audio quality on the download better?
posted by moira at 10:04 AM on June 30, 2015

I didn't have any problems with the audio, but it's all subtitled as well.
posted by rifflesby at 10:11 AM on June 30, 2015

I have some trouble with auditory processing,

The app I downloaded to my iPad -- which cost all of $4.99 -- provides subtitles. I love that -- I pick up a lot more from subtitles than just listening.
posted by bearwife at 10:12 AM on June 30, 2015

Oh good, and thanks! Looks like I'll be doing some sleuthing on my day off.
posted by moira at 10:14 AM on June 30, 2015

tickingclock, I don't suppose one of the conditions listed here applies to you? You may want to look into a refund.

figurant, that's it. I'm on Mac OSX 10.7. Argh.
posted by tickingclock at 11:26 AM on June 30, 2015

I shouldn't have stayed up late last night to play this game. It was amazing, but I jumped every time the screen flickered and it wasn't easy falling asleep after.

Still, wow. I'm going to go for completion this evening.
posted by Gordafarin at 4:42 AM on July 1, 2015

MCMikeNamara: Viva Seifert.

prize bell octorok: What makes you think that the confession is true? Maybe it hides another explanation.

moira: Without the background music it’s *much* easier to understand what she’s saying.

ticking clock: I don’t think Lion is getting security updates any more. Time to upgrade to Yosemite if you can?
posted by pharm at 5:06 AM on July 1, 2015

There was a thread here -- I won't link it, for fear of spoiling, but the thread ID is 150275 -- which actually helped me better understand the story through a particular lens, and give more credence to an interpretation than I might otherwise have done. The game contains a delicious, perfectly balanced ambiguity.

The experience of playing it reminded me strongly of Jon Ingold's Make It Good, which is free and even playable in-browser. It's an utterly amazing text parser detective game, although, fair warning: It is a bit more involved and may be harder to get into if you're unfamiliar with interactive fiction conventions -- moving around the map, manipulating objects, interviewing NPCs, and so on -- and oh, it is hard. But if you can squeeze through the barrier to entry, it's absolutely worth it, and wholeheartedly recommended to anyone looking for something that feels similar and is similarly masterfully constructed.
posted by seikleja at 4:47 PM on July 1, 2015 [3 favorites]

The game is also a retelling of the Tale of the Two Sisters, in true Everything is a Remix style, as told in the song she sings in the middle of the interviews. It’s deliberately ambiguous about who the two sisters are however :)
posted by pharm at 2:56 AM on July 2, 2015

I skipped straight to the bottom, not wanting to read spoilers.

I put eight hours in the game so far. It's actually a very good game to play if you like something you can fiddle around with and then do something else and then come back to it, ready to tackle the case. But I'm stumped. There's a section of video that I can't seem to access and it's possibly an important piece of the puzzle. I have three theories on what's going on, and they could all be plausible.
posted by FJT at 9:18 AM on July 2, 2015

What makes you think that the confession is true? Maybe it hides another explanation.

If you're referring to the interpretation seikleja alluded to, I headcanoned that right out as soon as the idea presented itself, as I am not a fan of that particular trope. If there's an even deeper mystery to get to, I was too obtuse to see it.

It does seem likely that fur znl unir pbzzvggrq fbzr bgure zheqref though...
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:36 AM on July 2, 2015

Yes, that seems very likely pbo, although how many & who did them depends on which interpretation of the facts you prefer!
posted by pharm at 9:46 AM on July 2, 2015

(I don’t think any of the main interpretations people have hinted at are 100% plausible - but that’s because this is a re-telling of a classic folk tale that’s been around for centuries, so some stretching of reality is to be expected.)

FJT: Memail me if you want some hints.
posted by pharm at 9:49 AM on July 2, 2015

Hmm, I think there is ONE solution to the main mystery presented here, and possible solutions to two past events which this game never resolves.
posted by bearwife at 9:51 AM on July 2, 2015

pharm: I will memail you on this, but I want to take at least one crack at it. I haven't said "I'm done" yet over the mini-IM thing, which btw, freaked the crap out of me when it happened. I'm going all Jake Gyllenhaal 'Zodiac' on this when I'm playing.

And I've kind of decided that some limited Googling on background info is allowed (I'm probably going to look up fairy tales next), but not anything in the game itself. It's a murky line.
posted by FJT at 11:39 AM on July 2, 2015

I too would welcome a memail from anyone who thinks they've blown the case wide open.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:45 AM on July 2, 2015

I just finished it. What an amazing game. One of the best indie games I've played in a while. Everyone play it even if you aren't a game person!
posted by SarahElizaP at 6:09 AM on July 4, 2015

Just finished it last night, thanks so much for the recommendations, Mefites!

Can't stop thinking about this story since I started playing; here are my spoileriffic thoughts on MeFightClub.
posted by Zephyrial at 6:43 AM on July 6, 2015

I've watched nearly all the clips (even using some of the help that comes at the end, I'm missing a few but I'm tapped out at this point).

I think I "get it" to the degree that it's possible to get it - as it seems intentionally ambiguous.

Here's my question, though. Stop reading, possible spoilers!

At the very end, you're asked a question. This question reveals the conceit of the game, and I was surprised by it.

But then I sat back and thought about the ACTUAL QUESTION asked, and my answer was, "uhhhhh, no?" So is the question not REALLY intended to be answered, or is it just for the reveal? Can anyone answer that question and PM me?
posted by peep at 9:01 AM on July 6, 2015

Finally got the game today. Man o man am I enjoying this.
posted by northtwilight at 11:15 PM on July 7, 2015

I just asked what game to play next on AskMe.
posted by roll truck roll at 1:04 PM on July 8, 2015

I started playing Her Story yesterday and I think either Rapunzel did it, or there is a key clue in that awful song I'm not going to watch. But this is a very well-made game.
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:26 PM on July 8, 2015

That damn song has been stuck in my head all week.

peep, did you get answers via MeMail already? If not, I've got some time and will message you.
posted by harriet vane at 11:57 PM on July 8, 2015

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