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INDIGO 2014: Fragments of Him – Pure Drama Gaming

This article is part of a series focusing on the most notable games seen at this year’s INDIGO gaming exhibition, held September 25-26 in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

If this game was a class speech, and major publishers would be the popular kids in the back, it wouldn’t be long before the they would burst into giggling. Fragments of Him doesn’t have combat. It doesn’t have enemies. It actually doesn’t have anything that makes it remotely fit in with the rest of the first person games, and before Creative Industies Fund stepped in, it didn’t even have a budget.

Just to mock this bullied thing even more, I’ll treat the game like a game for a moment. In the playable concept, the only viable action was to click on things, and then they’d disappear. This was what I played on the show floor. Gameplay wise, it was an awfully dull experience. I found myself in a white shaded, low polygon park, where the only movement came from some of the dullest ducks I’ve ever seen occupying a pond. But there was a context to it all. Every time I removed things from the park, I was removing a memory from my mind. That was what the developer told me. After a couple of these removals, I noticed a voice speaking to me. It told me about a man that had died. Then, the narrative became clear.

Fragments of Him can submerge you in a pool of depression

Fragments of Him relies heavily on emotions, and they completely passed me by. Partially thanks to the busy show floor, and partially thanks to my disability to relate to the narrative. Even though Fragments of Him didn’t give me a fun time, it’s potential shone through. It was something special, so I asked one of the developers for an elaboration.

Fragments of Him was born in a three day game jam by SassyBot Studio. The idea was a drama game. One revolving around the loss of someone’s loved one. Experiences of the writer, comparable to the narrative, were the main source of inspiration, which makes the whole deal even more sentimental. It’s a game that lets the player cope with the consequences and memories of a loss. Tino van der Kraan, developer of Fragments of Him, explained to me how the final product will play out:

You will reveal the world around the person that perished, through interacting with the world, in ways beyond clicking to erase objects. There are four storylines which all give a different perspective on, but do revolve around, the death of a man. Even though the lighting, polygon count and animations are all bumped up for the final game, the white, textureless world and faces will persist. We’ve done this to ensure that each player can interpret the world as his/her world and fill it in with his/her memories. This allows everyone to identify with the story, as if it’s their own. We’ve noticed someone that played it who saw his father in the deceased character. Other people started crying during their playthrough. It’s touching to see that.

Fragments of Him doesn’t have the formula of violence and rewards, but it doesn’t need that. It might hit you where it hurts, or leave you untouched. In the end, Fragments of Him may just be the first pure emotional drama game, and with the success of games like Gone Home, there is a path of fame laid out before it. I’d recommend it to anyone who can somehow relate to the narrative.

Play the free prototype here.

Tom Franse

A long time ago, Tom was pulled in the world of digital warfare & pixelated adventures. Tom became a journalist and the pixels increased in numbers. Today he writes about them from his humble shack in the Netherlands.

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