Her Story wins our 2015 award for Most Original game with its loose, non-linear structure and enigmatic narrative. We'll be posting the rest of our awards and personal picks daily as we approach the end of the year, which we're collecting on our main GOTY page.
Samuel Roberts: A terrific detective game with a neat format that allows players to actually solve the mystery themselves, by questioning a woman about a possible murder. Like many people I played this in one intense evening, and the feeling of pieces of the story slotting into place based on my own intuition was so rewarding. The entire mystery rests on Viva Seifert’s ability to bring the ‘her’ in question to life, and she gives a performance that is a little unsettling, so much so that you’re not sure where the truth begins and ends until you’ve trawled through every last VHS in search of answers. The worst feeling is walking away from Her Story and realising that it’ll be years before anyone makes a mystery game this good again.
Andy Kelly: Her Story is a rare example of a detective game that makes you feel like a detective. Digging through those old VHS tapes, piecing the story together, it felt like I was uncovering a genuine mystery. Even though your path through the story is nonlinear, determined by the search terms you use, it feels almost like it’s scripted. There were twists, revelations, and shocking moments—and they were all unique to me. A brilliantly creative form of interactive storytelling that wouldn’t be possible in any other medium.
Chris Thursten: This is such a staggeringly ambitious game, but so simple. It’s a puzzle game about your ability to intuit deeper meaning from ambiguous and seemingly-innocuous statements, and in order to work it requires a bulletproof script that manages to be both natural-sounding and invested with meaning—which it has. It then, bravely, hangs the entire game off a single actor’s performance. It might have worked—and been easier to achieve—as a text adventure, but Viva Seifert’s work here is what makes Her Story so powerful. It’s intimate, personal, and deeply human in the way that only real footage of a real person can be. It would have been so easy to get this wrong, but Barlow and Seifert got it so, so right.
Chris Livingston: This is the first time I’ve ever found myself wishing a game was episodic. If there was a new chapter of Her Story every month, I’d be in heaven. The story had some stumbles but the format was perfect.
Phil Savage: By delivering the story in short, nonlinear clips, Her Story seeds its revelations in a fascinating way. At first, I was writing down the names and places referenced; building a list of search terms to poke and prod at. Then I hit upon a term that jumped me to the end of the interview—Seifert's character acting completely differently, hinting at things I didn't have the context to understand. The story morphed into something much darker. Her Story isn't just a game about uncovering a mystery, but also about piecing that mystery together in your own mind. It trusts the player's intelligence in a way that few games are prepared to do.
Tim Clark: I said after playing Her Story that it was the kind of thing which sticks with you a long time after it’s finished. It’s an explosion of ideas—about identity, memory, and games themselves—the shrapnel from which lodges in your brain. The first thing I wanted to do once the credits were rolling was speak to the game’s creator and its star, Sam Barlow and Viva Seifert, which happened here. But even five months later, I sometimes find my thoughts returning to Her Story to tug at the strands. Truthfully, only one other video game has ever had a resolution ambiguous enough to make me keep turning it over years after playing. I think that might be the biggest contribution that Her Story makes. The idea that in a medium where delivering information clearly is usually paramount, sometimes not knowing is so much sweeter.