Hannah Nicklin, she of the wonderful RPS series A Psychogeography of Games and Even Your Mom. From October 2015, Hannah ran an art residency in Poplar, East London, trying to listen to the community and get them involved in a project that would let them tell their own stories. It culminated in a local exhibition at the end of April, and a storytelling experiment made in Twine that you can play online for free.
Teviot Tales [official site] is a socially-engaged work that pieces together stories, poems and interviews, letting you explore the place, breathe in its atmosphere and listen to the narratives that traverse this space.
“This is a piece for wandering. Not for wading through all in one go. It’s yours to find pathways through.” That’s how the game begins – and it’s weird to call it a game in the first place. Obviously I do not mean it in a derogatory way: Teviot Tales uses the tools of interactive fiction to do something quite different than usual. Even though it’s a non-fiction work, its nearest cousin may be the walking simulator genre: there really is no goal other than to explore, listen, take in the stories.
Here’s the author talking about her work:
“I think we have in our mind certain ideas about the East End, about housing estates, about single mums and street cleaners and Bangladeshi women, but the truth is always more complicated than the idea, that’s what I hope this work shows. We used to talk about ourselves in folk songs and story, and I like to try and work with people to think about what a modern, multicultural version of that tradition might be – how we connect with others, to think about who we are, and who we might be, together.”
Hannah herself doesn’t try to hide her presence, but instead accompanies the player on their journey: she is under no illusion that the work represents “the authentic voice of the people,” because she oversaw the project and edited it, but at least she hopes to limit the effect of her own bias by pointing at herself.
The work as a whole is very aware of itself, of its social conscience, of what it’s trying to do – even of the risks of what it’s doing: there’s an entire page on its website dedicated to a discussion of ‘artwashing’, where the author, with commendable earnestness, considers whether her work may not have harmful consequences after all.
If you’re at all interested in how gaming tools may be used for other means than what we usually think of when we think of gaming, you should definitely spend at least a few minutes with it.