Updated: May 9
What's going on everyone?
A lot of you have recommended a number of different games that I could potentially make lessons for. One game that I saw being repeatedly requested was Her Story, developed by Sam Barlow. Her Story is a crime fiction game with non-linear storytelling. It revolves around a police database full of live action video footage that the player must navigate through in order to discover why a man was murdered and who killed him. After playing through the game, it was clear that this was the perfect opportunity to teach about foreshadowing. You can find the lesson for Her Story here.
Part of my job is to help prepare my students for the New York English Regents Exam. Part 3 of this exam asks students to write a well-developed, text-based response of two to three paragraphs based on a provided text. In the response, students must identify a central idea in the text and analyze how the author’s use of one writing strategy (literary element or literary technique or rhetorical device) develops this central idea. Foreshadowing is a literary technique in which the writer gives an advance hint of what is to come later in the story.
Her Story is constructed around this technique. You watch clips of an interview, searching for breadcrumbs that will inevitably solve the mystery. The catch is that the video clips are not in any order and there is no way to watch the full interviews as originally recorded. You instead search for words that you think are important and any video that contains this word(s) being spoken will be brought up. And even then, you are only allowed to watch the first five videos with this word. You end up watching seven different interviews completely out of order and intertwined with one another. This encourages you to take notes as if you were really a detective trying to solve the case.
This is where the creator's use of foreshadowing shines. You never want the player to feel helpless when playing your game. Sam Barlow accomplishes this by using three strategies to foreshadow its ending while also making sure to not give too much away. There are occasional reflections in a computer screen, flashing red and blue lights with a siren in the background, and music changes whenever something of note is said in one of the interviews. These little moments indicate to the player that what they just heard was important, but it never tells us why. Learning why a moment was important is the player's responsibility.
It is always useful for students to have clear cut examples of certain content that they can recall when needed, like during the New York English Regents. My hope is that this lesson will help students remember how authors incorporate foreshadowing into their work. Of course a video game that uses visual cues to foreshadow events is different than in a novel, or short story, but understanding an author's thought process will help across all mediums. Her Story also provides a great chance to talk about narrative overall since this game has such an unorthodox way of presenting its story.
Thanks for reading,