As you already know, the medium of video games are unique from movies and novels by how they are able to share stories and experiences. What is so special about video game story-telling is that players can have a visual representation of what game creators are tying to express. The game creators of both Her Story and Beginner’s Guide strongly relied on visual cues to support the central focus in their story.
In Her Story, players are put in front of a police computer/database and search through police interview clips revolving around the murder case of a man. The game designers used these video clips as their only tool of visual representation to share their story. What made this visual design good is that a real life actress was put in place as the victim in the police interviews. The use of an actual human being as opposed to a virtual 3D model and animation brings a greater sense of reality to players. Although there have been some very close human representations, such as the latest Final Fantasy CG models, no virtual 3D model has been able to perfectly replace the human representation. Although the acting was convincing, the same can not be said of the overall clips. The actress is the one and only character who ever speaks. The voices of police interviewers are never heard and we can only assume what the question was based on the actress’s response. What is particularly dissatisfying about this is that it breaks full immersion. For example, there is no way of telling if the actress is avoiding a question. Identifying any lies becomes near impossible and for you to assume. As you watch more and more videos, trying to unravel the truth in the story, you notice the visual representation of a girl from the reflection of the police database. This is intended to be a representation of you, the player. However, the ugly in this is that there is a disconnect between the realism of the videos and the animation of a 3D, computer generated, model. When I noticed my character’s reflection, I felt removed from the story because I lost my previous immersion and connection with the actress in the video.
Moving on to Beginner’s Guide, story-telling was widely different that Her Story. Although some may see this as a more passive and less interactive experience that Her Story, I have to politely, yet aggressively, argue against that statement. What makes Beginner’s Guide special is the ideas and questions Davey Wreden implants in the game. Although one may argue that Beginner’s Guide is simply walking through levels and listening to Davey Wreden’s personal story about his friendship with a game designer by the name of Coda, these levels and the story work in perfect symmetry as they work off of each other to make you feel a variety of emotions. Each portion of the experience is worth while and fulfilling. However, the bad in this overall design is the inability to explore more of the levels. Although very simple in nature, each level is designed to pull you in, you are just left wanting more by the end of the story. Without giving away the story and ending to Beginner’s Guide, the ugly in this game lies in the relationship between Davey and Coda. You begin to feel bad for people and even more so, wish all of these games and levels would be completed.
Quite frankly, out of the two, Beginner’s Guide was more likable, entertaining, and overall, more valuable. By the end, I felt I had several things I could pull away from this story. The same can not be said with Her Story. After seeing my character’s reflection in the screen for several times, my patience for this disruptive design ended and I had to stop playing. I had to watch a YouTube spoiler video just so that I knew how the story would play out, however, by the end, the final punch lines were hardly fulfilling and just very, very, weird.