Her Story is an interesting game with a wonderful story that you should play. This note is about one of the key issues with a game like that and a couple of moments from the game that deal with it beautifully. Naturally, there are a couple of spoilers.
The key mechanic of Her Story has the player search for keywords and then shows the player videos of the interview which contain that keyword. The game doesn’t expect you to go through all of the clips, just enough to piece together the story for yourself. This mechanic has many implications, but the one I want to talk about is steering people to certain content. Naturally, not all of the content in your game will be of equal quality, and there will tend to be a couple of clips in particular that you want to show your player. The issue is reconciling that with the freedom you give the players, especially the freedom to just never find that content. I want to highlight a couple of those clips and how they were found here.
The Wind and the Rain
There is a full song in Her Story. There are a lot of fair criticisms that can be leveled at it, but it was one of my favorite things about the game and something that I believe the game creators wanted you to find. During one entire day of interviews, the main character carries a guitar. This naturally feels incongrous in a set of police interviews and so any one of those clips naturally pushes the player to try to find an explanation for this micro-mystery. The word “guitar” takes you straight to this song and gives you a small clue to the mystery as a whole. Additionally, you only get the first of two clips through that search term. To get the second, I used the song’s refrain and got to feel a little clever for doing that.
The second easter egg was when the main character spilled coffee on herself. This clip was emphasized by an associated achievement, as was the one before. This one needed it more though, I feel it was less intrinsically meaningul. However, the interesting thing is how I got to this clip. Eventually, I did what anyone will do with a text field and entered the work “fuck”. I think as a game designer, it is a safe assumption that many of your players will evenutally try that term.
Good game design is often getting players to do what you want them to do, but having them feel clever while doing it. These are a couple of places where Her Story managed precisely that.