In many games, people die left and right, and nobody bats an eyelash. In Fragments of Him, one character — controlled by you — dies right at the beginning. The rest of the game is about making that death matter.
The upcoming narrative game tells the story of one man, Will (whose last name I really hope is Him), and the people who his life and death impacted. You inhabit multiple characters as the game progresses — for instance, Will's most recent (male) significant other, whose very existence creates tension with another character you play, Will's more traditionally-minded grandmother.
The idea was originally born of a game jam, and it resulted in an interactive story told through the removal of items. A man coped with the sudden, violent loss of his boyfriend by reflecting on things that were significant to both of them. The full game involves more types of interaction, often with a focus on detailed environments — all the way down to individual books characters read. I got to see a demo of the game during GaymerX in San Jose, California:
One of the game's creators, Mata Haggis, told me that many of the items and locations are pulled directly from his life. Hotels, cafes, parks, rooms, dorm rooms — books and portraits in said rooms. Haggis explained why:
"While I fortunately haven't lost a partner like this myself," he said, "I have lost a friend this way. And so I tried to pour as much of my real life experiences into this as possible."
"What I wanted to do is show how those experiences of loss, those moments are common," he continued. "So we have characters like Will, who's a bisexual man, his partner who's gay, [Will's ex-girlfriend] Sarah who's heterosexual, and Will's grandmother is heterosexual as well. The point of this is not to push out this agenda — that these are things we have to have in there. The point is to show that actually, at times of loss like this, we're all the same."
Fragments of Him will be out next year.