This is Dan Hett, posting with my Passenger Games hat on. This is the first post on this small blog I set up to hold thoughts and writing and development updates and anything else related to our upcoming game Closed Hands. I thought I’d make a very quick post to explain who we are, what it is we’re doing, why, and how.
Who/what is PASSENGER?
PASSENGER is a new independent games company based in Manchester, UK – I wouldn’t go as far as to call it a studio as we’re mostly working remotely from one another within the city, but it’s safe to say we are a loose collective of people working on a cohesive single thing.
At the moment, PASSENGER is comprised of me and a plucky band of collaborators who are helping me put together Closed Hands. This group of collaborators is still changing and being added to as needed, but at the moment it’s comprised of me in a writing/director and programming role, plus writer Dan Whitehead, designer Loz Ives, musician and sound artist Ciaran McAuley, and producer Sarah Unwin.
The main reason I formed this grouping/company is that as an individual creative I’ve always felt a little weird taking credit for something that’s actually had loads of really good people working on it. Closed Hands is definitely not being made by just me, and so putting it out as PASSENGER makes this clear.
What is Closed Hands?
The short version is that Closed Hands is a large-scale interactive narrative game, which has sprung out of some of my own much smaller personal videogames works, following the death of my brother in the 2017 Manchester Arena terror attacks. You can read more about the existing work in the Guardian or on Gamesindustry.biz, which should explain things. The initial games were very small prototype-level works, and very personal/autobiographical, made just by me.
Closed Hands is a significantly larger undertaking, and pulls the camera back considerably, to unflinchingly examine the wider picture around radicalisation and extremism. Although influenced by my experiences, it’s a work of complete fiction. The game looks at the really big difficult stuff, but is a very human story, also exploring the way in which many dozens of people’s lives are suddenly intertwined during a crisis. Structurally the game is built around a traditional interactive fiction core, allowing the player to focus their viewpoint on one of seven core characters within the narrative (or allowing them to move between their perspectives). The game deviates from traditional IF by allowing the player to use and explore character’s computer, phones and devices, allowing a really deep exploration of each character’s storyline, motivations, and subtle sub-plots.
The game is in a very early pre-production and writing phase right now, early enough that no release date or platform has been set (however broadly it’ll be the back end of 2019). The game is initially being designed for Windows/Mac/Linux.
Why would you make a game about this?
Fair question. One of my primary motivations for creating this thing is simply that I feel this is the kind of complex narrative that works really well within the medium. More pressingly though, I also feel like videogames aren’t doing this kind of thing at the moment – extremism and radicalisation are part of our everyday existences (unfortunately) and although this is filtering into the media we consume, videogames are a space where these stories and themes aren’t being explored.
From a personal standpoint, I’m also very interested in the idea that I can take what happened to me, and express some of it back through games. Although this is a fictional story, there’s an enormous amount of my story that’s going into it – I was one of the people thrown into the maelstrom in real life, suddenly part of this story with hundreds of people, and Closed Hands will definitely be reflecting this.
Ultimately I’ve started making this game because I think it’s really important – both to me, and hopefully to people playing it.
Right now the game is very very early stage, prototyping and writing. We’ve received a small amount of investment to kick-start the project, and this is going to hopefully let us get up to a stage where we have something small and representative (a vertical slice of gameplay, if you want to use a really annoying term to describe it). Longer-term I’m unsure how we’re going to do things – the Arts Council are interested in this whole thing as a digital/games work, and there’s the possibility of crowdfunding full development too. At the moment though, we’re focusing on really figuring it out in prototype form and we’ll see where it goes from there.
I favour transparency in development (anyone who has me on social media will know this), and so it’s likely this site will hold a lot of thoughts and musings and notes etc, and will hopefully turn into a more traditional devlog as the game starts to take shape. I’ll definitely be sharing bits about the tech we’re using, the narrative approach, and probably also how the research is being done too.