Experimental video game Closed Hands will launch Push, Manchester arts centre HOME’s annual celebration of the North West’s creative talents.
The game was developed by Manchester indie games studio Passenger, formed and directed by artist and writer Dan Hett, recent winner of the New Media Writing Prize 2021.
The studio’s first work, Closed Hands is the beginning of a series exploring Dan’s personal experience of losing his brother Martyn Hett in the Manchester terror attack in 2017.
The game examines the lead-up and aftermath of a terror attack in a fictional UK city, through the lens of five core characters and dozens of other lives brought together by the same event.
The attack itself is intentionally never depicted, leaving the game to draw a complex picture of the reasons why it occurred, and long-lasting effects it had on people, communities, and the city itself.
The sprawling 130,000-word story is presented through bold interactive narrative across five core characters and dozens of additional viewpoints and perspectives.
The gameplay is a free-form fragmented narrative, allowing the player to weave their own paths through the story: both forward and backward in time.
The story is told through interactive textual fiction, and the player can also engage more deeply in the narrative by exploring the desktops of the characters.
This includes reading emails, exploring files, replaying conversations, and finding secrets.
Presented as an interactive digital story, the game will also challenge wider preconceptions users have about video game storytelling.
It’s an unflinching work of interactive fiction exploring the long-ranging complex effects of extremism on a range of cultures and communities.
The game will allow players to understand the complex effect extremism has on people’s perceptions of cultures and communities.
Prejudices and racism that exist in the moments after an attack in many communities will be explored in this game, as will the tabloid and media reaction to sensitivity and empathy to those affected.
“We’re really excited to present Closed Hands to new audiences, and we really hope that it helps push forward the idea that games should, and can, boldly hold up a mirror to our reality in new and interesting ways,” says Dan.
“The story is deep and complex, and presented in a way that we hope can be explored by both games audiences and those outside it, too.”
Closed Hands, will be available online from 5th March 2021 at homemcr.org.