The Novelist: A Thought Provoking Game - Indies Doing Good
As gamers, we are obviously very passionate about our hobby and, like any other hobby, tend to dedicate a lot of time to it. Everyone has, at least at one point or another, encountered a game that they just could not put down. Maybe it was because the story was so engrossing, or the setting so fascinating to explore, or maybe it was just the thrill of pitting your skills against other online players. While gaming, it is easy to forget about your surroundings and most gamers have been berated for “wasting too much time on games” at least once in their lives.
We are used to seeing extreme cases in the headlines, like the Jacksonville mother who shook her baby to death after the child’s crying interrupted her game of Farmville, or the Ohio teen who shot his parents for taking away his Xbox 360 game. Gaming is a wonderful hobby, and certainly not as expensive or dangerous as some other hobbies (although we are obviously biased in this regard) but it is important to set priorities not to lose touch with real life. We also believe that the right games can make social change, and make positive headlines.
The same goes for development as creating a game, especially with a small team, is a time consuming and stressful endeavor. Being an Indie developer may sound like the dream job, but a lot of blood, sweat and tears go into the creation of any game.
The Novelist by Kent Hudson is a wonderful game that demonstrates just how difficult it is to find the right balance in life. Before going the Indie route, Kent has worked on games such as Deus Ex: Invisible War, Bioshock 2 and The Bureau: XCOM Declassified. The Novelist was a personal project for Kent, and it is a game that can be a real eye-opener for anyone that is passionate about their hobby or work. Kent, who has confessed to being someone who, if he isn’t doing something, feels like he should be doing something, created the game because he wanted to get people to think about what is really important in life.
The Novelist, another game we’d like to see on the Oculus Rift, is a slow paced, thoughtful game, where you play as the ghostly occupant of a remote, coastal home. When a novelist, Dan Kaplan, moves into the house for the summer, you get to observe him and his family as they live out their lives. Dan is struggling to focus on his latest novel, which could be the end of his career. Linda, his wife, has given up her career to take care of her son Tommy. Finally, there is Tommy who is struggling in school due to some learning disabilities and being a victim of bullying.
During the three month period over which the game is set, you get a deeper glimpse into the lives of the Kaplans through their diaries, notes and conversations. You also get to delve into their memories for more clues about the situations they are facing. Each of the family members has their own desires and unfortunately, not all of them can get what they want. It is up to you, as the player, to help Dan decide what the resolution for each scenario will be. We don’t want to spoil anything, but the game has some very real, very emotional twists and constantly challenges you to evaluate what your biggest priorities are.
The Novelist is not a game about winning or losing, it is not about being the “best father” or “best husband” but about reflecting on your own choices. It is about making hard choices, and then witnessing the consequences. The game obviously hits home harder if you are someone with a family of your own, but it remains thought provoking no matter your background.
Kent dedicated The Novelist to his wife, who supported him throughout the development of the game. He also admits that there were times during the process where he was not giving her the quality time that she deserved because he was so dedicated to getting the work done. Through good communication and prioritizing his relationship with his wife, Kent managed to finish the game without it affecting his marriage, but not all developers or gamers can say the same. Thought provoking games like The Novelist demonstrate that you don’t have to save the world to be a hero. Sometimes taking the time out to have a romantic dinner with a loved one or giving your child your undivided attention despite your workload is all it takes to make a major difference.
Kent, keep making these deeply immersive stories, and taking your wife out to dinner.