What struck me immediately when I first looked at “Her Story” was the model of the computer screen, reflective of the Windows 95 operating system. It was a recognizable UI that applied both to the desktop function and the program design coupled with a horrible search function. In other words, completely realistic.
Yet, a couple of minutes into exploring the game, I found that the story was difficult to invest in. We are presented with this figure of some significance, but the only thing we see is her sitting in an interview. Presented with this situation, based on the username given to me, AUTH_GUEST, and the database arranged like that of law enforcement, I believed I was either a private investigator or part of some law enforcement agency assigned to this specific case. Perhaps this lack of personal investment is intentional, since you are a member of law enforcement and therefore you must be unbiased in your investigation. On the other hand, if the videos were meant encourage the player to deviate from the stoic nature of law enforcement with regards to individuals with mental illnesses, they surely failed to invoke empathy for the woman’s situation.
What is also very interesting is the sound in the game. Especially the loud, incessant droning of what may be the computer box or air conditioner. I would argue that the droning sound is important in two ways. Firstly, it creates a sense of uncanniness in the player, not quite fear, but a form of uncertainty that adds to the experience of solving some form of mystery. Secondly, the droning, at certain stages, increases or decreases in volume. The sound can therefore be used to represent a mental state where the individual is constantly either unable to focus or annoyed, which may be indicative of the woman’s psychological condition. There is also a pseudo retro arcade soundtrack layered on top of everything else that only plays when I returned to the home search screen on the computer, although I am not sure as to what purpose that soundtrack might play.
The final point of interest rests with the artwork on the physical computer screen, such as reflections and glares. In fact, what is displayed on the screen provides much more information than just the search returns or the desktop icons. From the glass window we can see the glare of two lights that are oriented in a way to suggest an interrogation room (two long lights side by side on the same plane) as well as a hint to who might be sitting in front of the computer. At the end of the story, we learn that the female figure in front of the computer is actually the woman’s daughter. The question of why the developers chose the player to become such an intimate person still remains to be seen.