In the prehistoric era of video games, even before Pong (1972), that many of our parents love to regale stories about, there existed a game called Tennis for Two (1958). Tennis for Two was in many ways similar to Pong yet played on an extremely high tech computer that when not calculating the trajectory of a pong ball it calculated the trajectory of missiles to assist in the defense of the United States.
For many years afterwards, games would continue to be extremely minimalist and focus primarily on mechanics. It wasn’t until the last few years that games began to focus on narrative on top of strong game mechanics.
Today, in the second floor of the building that the Interactive Media and Game Division call home, exists the workspace for the team behind Quiet of the Leaves, a narrative driven game which allows players to witness both sides of a strained relationship. Players make decisions which affect the relationship for the better or inadvertent worse.
A far cry from the the games of old.
The game industry has come a long way from games like Pong where there was hardly any story embedded within. However, that’s not to say that Quiet of the Leaves will be a game better suited for a medium like film with its narrative heavy parts.
What makes the concept so interesting is that the player will balance emotional and rational decisions. There aren’t any right or wrong answers, but perhaps the way players answer will be indicative of who they, the player, are.
Quiet of the Leaves is an introspective adventure for both the daughter-father duo and the player.
To a western market, Quiet of the Leaves may be an odd sight. The game’s protagonists are Latinx and feature a woman as a main character.
“We’re not trying to send a message about anything,” said Ryan Bobell. “In writing the characters, a lot of us felt it was a natural fit. Many people on the team are people of color or marginalized backgrounds. A lot of us put some of our own identities into the game.”
Quiet of the Leaves aims to show that featuring people of color is a normal sight. There is no narrative reason why the main characters are Latinx and there isn’t a reason for them to be anything else either. The main characters are just people. Fortunately this is also a far cry from games of old.
Ryan describes a typical grievance they have, “Some people might say, ‘This character is queer. What about that is motivating the character?’ And, ‘What about that is relevant to the plot? If it’s not relevant to the plot then why have it?’
“But I think it’s important to show these other identities and life experiences even when they’re not relevant to the plot.”
Yet, all that doesn’t mean the game won’t be a slog of a text adventure — it’ll be fun and enjoyable on top of being gripping.
“We’re working really hard to develop an engaging method of movement throughout the forest,” said Ryan. “What’s interesting about forests is that you’re not just walking you’re climbing over things, awkwardly stepping over something and ducking under some brush.
“We want to make sure the experience is fun by itself, not just the narrative.”
For every failed relationship there are two sides. In Quiet of the Leaves the player sees one between a daughter and her father. However, there is also a relationship between the game and the player.
In delivering an emotional narrative, empathy for the characters may cause you, the player, to ask where your own relationships stands. Are the choices you’re making for the better of your relationships? Is it to make only you happy? Is it to make only the other people happy? What choices are those other people making, are they for you or for them?
Whatever the answer, Quiet of the Leaves is a game that juggles many descriptions. It’s a game that supports a diverse and equal society. A society where it’s normal to be different and not a unique and exotic trait. But, it’s also an introspective adventure that won’t only explore the fictional protagonists’ psyche but also allow us to explore the intricate relationships we have with others — minus being stranded in the wilderness.