ƸӜƷ GRAYLING ƸӜƷ

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What is this?

As part of my independent study on Writing for Video Games overseen and advised by Kenny Finkle, I wrote an early interactive rough draft of a video game script and programmed it through Twinery and Javascript, complete with a functioning inventory, character stats, and progressive, branching narrative that changes based upon the choices you as a player makes. 

This rough first draft, focused primarily on expansion of choice and narrative beats, is of the prologue chapter that would be the inciting incident of the story. It introduces us to the couple at the heart of the story as well as embeds a deep sense of fright and mystery to enrapture players from the beginning of the game. Think of it like the game without the graphics-- it's a storyboard of scripture pre-development and a glimpse of what could be if it ever is produced.

 

Inspired by games like Until Dawn, Detroit: Become Human, and Heavy Rain, Grayling follows a similar formula to these multi-narrative stories that changes dramatically based on actions you take. I envision this piece to, if fully produced, to have a runtime of 20-60 hours depending on pathways you take. 

What can GRAYLING offer gaming?

A truly branching, genre-bending, quality horror story filled with atmospheric horror, scares, and refreshing usage of horror tropes in a genre that typically doesn’t have compelling LGBTQ leads. Even more compelling, none of the playable characters will be straight. It focuses on a queer group of friends in a way that doesn’t trivialize their identities, but embraces and humanizes them.

What potential challenges does producing GRAYLING face?

Branching storylines are tricky because of the complex amounts of dialogue changes that come with every complex choice and to layer on the fact that choices you get are based on previous choices you get so you have to take into consideration the nuances of each story and each choice… it’s doable, it’s just more complex. I also imagine this to be longer than many other choice based games and maybe the story takes place over the course of months, so then there’s nuance to the fact that this game has to take into account the progression of time branching across multiple narratives. Kind of like if The Shining and say, Midsommar had a baby. But longer. And interactive.

Plot (SPOILERS ABOUND):

Newlywed lesbian couple Genevieve (Jenny) Walsh and her wife Constance (Connie) Green are college sweethearts and planning the next chapter of their lives. Unfortunately, they’ve wed against the wishes of Jenny’s homophobic parents, who are deeply rooted in their conservative Irish (and particularly Irish Catholic) immigrant roots. On their honeymoon alone at Jenny’s parents’ Catskills vacation home, Connie starts to suspect something deeply sinister is going on and tries to convince Jenny that they aren’t alone at the vacation home. One evening their walk down a hiking trail is cut short by an incoming storm, and they return to find their car’s tires slashed, the home broken into, and their pet cat slaughtered. Realizing whoever did this also cut their power, they decide to risk going down to the highway below to flag someone down for help. They run out into the storm being pursued by a mysterious figure. They eventually make it close to the highway, but Jenny slips in the mud and tumbles downhill to the highway below where she is hit by a car in front of Connie, who is so traumatized she blacks out at the scene.

One year later, Connie is in therapy working through her mental health struggles to cope with the premature death of her wife. She and Jenny’s surviving friend group is deeply torn on what really happened to Jenny. Their friends Jax and Macy have a theory that Connie murdered Jenny herself and pushed her into ongoing traffic. Their friend Amalia believes a stranger or serial killer was up there on the mountain. And their other two friends, Colton and Bella believe that something dark and twisted is going on with Jenny’s family. Jenny is survived by her younger sister, Phoebe, who as the result of a childhood accident is disabled and uses a forearm crutch. Having previously been cold to Connie and conflicted by both her love of her sister and her deeply internalized homophobia, a year after the death of her sister she is struggling to try and build a friendship with Connie that she thinks her sister would have wanted them to have. However, the closer Phoebe tries to get to Connie, the more she unburies secrets that were thought to have died with Jenny, both in her family and also about the nature of the relationship between Connie and Jenny.

 

The game slips in between interactive drama, exploration, and horror between this friend group and Phoebe, as well as therapy sessions with Connie and her therapist that directly affect the pathway of the story. The choices made by characters affect the plot in dramatic and unpredictable ways, leaving it truly unknown how the story will turn out based on what choices are made. All, some, or none of the characters can survive till the end. I imagine a game where the genre of the third act can be completely reimagined based on choices made throughout the previous two acts.