“Can you achieve your dreams without pushing away the people you love?” is not your standard premise for a video game. However, it is the starting point for The Novelist.
This video game in development focuses on a struggling writer who has taken his wife and child to a remote coastal getaway. The player of the game acts as a ghost, reading the thoughts of the three family members and finding clues about their hopes and desires. The player then guides the family in whatever direction the player chooses, but each choice has consequences. If the writer focuses on his work, his family life suffers. If he puts his family first, then he continues to struggle with the writing.
It is a fascinating and unusual idea for a video game. It is certainly not your usual video game as form of escapism. The game appears to be built around compromise and disappointment. Even the trailer is downbeat, depressing, yet striking because of that.
I can see this appealing to people in the same position as the writer in the game. As much as we all like escapism, I think we all like to play ourselves too. There is something perverse about the idea of writers playing this game about the balance between their work and personal lives, yet neglecting both in real life because they are so drawn into The Novelist. Yet a game so problematic in some ways feels like a good thing, showing that we can be challenged through many media, not just the obvious ones. I’m not a big video game fan, but I’m tempted to give this game a go.