Last week I wrote about Narrative Atoms in some details. They are basically small nuggets of narrative that can stand on their own but together build the bigger story.
Her is the fabulous creation of Sam Barlow. You take the role of investigator, reviewing a police archive of video footage of a British woman accused of murder. You can access the footage in any order you like, gleaning more clues and information with every video you watch. Sometimes the videos will not make sense until you find the video that came before it, others give you all you need in just a few seconds of footage. The joy is discovering how the story fits together, jumping back and forward through the timeline. New snippets of information give you new ideas on what to search in the archive, leading to many “Ahahaa” moments.
The second is a well-loved game, Home from The Fullbright Company. I will be honest and say that I was never the biggest fan of Home, but that does not take away from the fact that it is a brilliant lesson in narrative design. Similar to Her Story, Gone Home tells the story in small atoms – fragments of what happened in the house you are exploring. Each scrap of paper, audio recording or newspaper clipping adds something to the story.
Both of these experiences, whilst seemingly disjointed, eventually build up a deep and fascinating narrative. Each atom may not seem to be relevant but may combine with another atom to unlock a key plot element or answer to a puzzle. In each case, you do not necessarily have to see everything to complete the game, but to fully understand everything it does help! You also don’t have to see everything in chronological order, but it can help 😉
The lesson is that using narrative atoms can help you create incredibly deep narrative experiences that don’t have to follow any particular path, giving people that opportunity to discover the whole picture in their own unique way!