More and more video games are coming into their own as a storytelling medium. Indie games especially have made incredible strides towards exploring the possibilities of narrative-driven experiences. Dim Bulb Games is looking to push the envelope even further with their collaboratively written, narrative game, Where the Water Tastes Like Wine.
Selected for the IndieCade E3 showcase, Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is the brainchild of creative director, Johnnemann Nordhagen. “I made this game in particular because I felt this might be my one chance to make a game that is mine, and I wanted to try to say some things and share some things that are particularly important to me,” Nordhagen explained.
Where the Water Tastes Like Wine doesn’t structure itself around a central narrative. Instead the game introduces a collection of short stories. Each story loosely ties around the theme of exploring America’s collective identity. The player experiences each story through their interactions with 16 unique characters. Each character has a different writer to portray the different perspectives and experiences players will encounter on their journey.
The game is described as “a bleak American folk tale about traveling, sharing stories, and surviving manifest destiny.” The characters share stories that reflect the cognitive dissonance surrounding the idea of the American Dream.
“There are a lot of stories about workers, and the importance of unions. There are a lot of stories about race in America, and about the immigrant experience, and all these stories are about how the American Dream that we sell fails to live up to the reality as it’s experienced by the most marginalized in the country. I knew that I needed to get other people to tell those stories, people who were closer to them, and I also felt it would be really interesting to weave that narrative from so many different voices,” Nordhagen explained.
Players take on the role of a cursed protagonist. As the personification of folk culture, the player must travel the land. Along the way they will spread folktales and collect the life stories of those they encounter. The protagonist can only complete their mission by earning the trust of these 16 individuals. This will allow players to see the true inner selves of each character.
Drawing From Lived Experiences
When it came time to select writers for the project, the developers cast a wide net. The team heavily researched each character, drawing from historical contexts. The devs then sought writers who shared some threads of similarity to the characters they portrayed. As writer, Cara Ellison explained this allowed each character to have a truly distinct and different voice.
“Most games have characters that have been written to sound similar to each other in language and cadence because there is a fear that it might sound jarring to have people speak and interpret the world differently from each other. But the strength of this game is that each person is really new and fresh, and they have a different way of seeing.”
Where the Water Tastes Like Wine will release sometime this year, but E3 attendees can get a look next week at IndieCade’s annual indie game showcase.
“I am so happy to have been able to work with all of these amazing writers on this project. It’s been really wonderful to watch each of their original ideas and vision build off of the research and concept for the world and characters of the game. I’m glad that all these talented people lent their own unique ideas to this experimental story,” Nordhagen said.