Queens, a cool approach to dying

Queens

So, a little while back I came across an awesome little indie flash game called Queens, from noonat, made for one of the Ludum Dare competitions. It’s a short, stylish platformer that revolves around a king who tests his wife by putting her inside a crazy little dungeon — if she dies, he can replace her.

It was made to try and put a little levity on the otherwise very dark theme of spousal abuse, and did so quite cleverly. The game generates a new Queen each time one dies — I’m not sure if it’s random, but it certainly feels random-ish. Given the simple appearance of the characters, a quick pallet swap does most of the legwork, but each queen has her own name.

The game is unforgiving, but not difficult, and it’s short with a sweet ending. While I don’t feel the meat of the game lives up to it’s highest potential, for a 72 hour game it’s an exceptionally nice package.

What’s really cool about Queens though is the idea that you have infinite chances, but each queen has only one life. If one dies, she’s replaced by a new queen. This is all supported by traditional stories of tortuous kings who ran through wives fairly frequently for violent and arbitrary reasons. In most traditional games, it’d be a story about a single woman who manages to escape her captor husband. But Queens makes the game about a sequence of women who all try to escape and ends with the one who’s successful.

This little game, believe it or not, is a REMARKABLE jump forward in how to tell stories in an interactive medium. The narrative could be significantly more in depth, but the fact that it doesn’t FORCE a story on the player allows it to escape the typical linear problems we see in many games. Instead, while the challenges of the game is still linear, the story is flexible and accounts for how the player acts, succeeds and fails.

This is a great basic model that people should look at to further the medium of interactive narrative.

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