After playing Gone Home (a game that I think is the most brilliant thing since sliced bread and encourage you to buy it immediately) I fell into the indie game rabbit hole on Steam and was really taken with the trailer (linked above) for The Novelist. Watch it. It’s kind of creepy, right?

I ended up playing through the game for the first time last week. The gameplay itself is incredibly simple and easy to pick up. I was a bit disappointed in the lack of total functionality of the beach house itself, but I think I got a little spoiled in Gone Home due to the fact that you could pretty much touch, open, turn off and on, and literally chuck almost anything on the floor in that particular game’s house. Regardless, this game isn’t about graphics. This game is about choices and how your choices shape not only your future but the also the lives of those who love you.

I find it difficult to discuss the game in too much depth because I don’t want to spoil the general storyline, but I will admit that the longer I played the more time it took for me to weigh the needs and wants of each of the 3 family members. You’re only allowed to choose one person’s “request” in each scenario so 2 people are always disappointed. You do have the option of selecting a second family member’s request to be “granted” in a compromise but they don’t generally end up being very happy about that.

I actually began to feel a little anxious for my fictional family. If I pleased Tommy (the child) would the father’s work suffer? If Dan (the father) was given his every whim would he revert into a self-involved hermit? Did Linda (the mother) have to give up her art for the betterment of the family unit? Then you close out the game with a HUGE decision that simply cannot leave everyone fulfilled. The effects of your final choice are revealed in an epilogue and I seriously did end up ruining Tommy’s life. So that bodes well for me being a mother…

That being said I hope to go through the game another time and see how much of the storyline actually changes when different choice combinations are made. I also wonder at the plausibility of this game being used in a classroom? Are there any psychology teachers out there? What do you think? I have a hunch that using this game in a well-structured activity would generate quite a bit of chatter or at the very least reveal a little bit about yourself. After all, as many other reviewers have noted, you’re the omniscient entity puppeteering the Kaplans and there’s no way (if you’re taking it seriously) that experiences in your own life aren’t steering you toward certain decisions in the game. That warrants a journal entry or two, right?

There are some very interesting articles about The Novelist and even a number of walkthroughs posted on YouTube but I strongly encourage you to play the game in order to get the full effect.

Have you played? What did you think?