Joe McCoy’s Puppet Closet

This game and subsequent narrative design research was made by the Lost Road Games team. POSTER0

  • Role:

Responsible for narrative design and team lead. Other team members of Lost Road Games are Sytze Brommersma, Jelle van den Heuvel, Daan Leenders and Kevin Nederkoorn.


  • Summary project:

Joe McCoy is a pessimistic detective who gets dragged into a murder case that is connected to his past. It is up to Joe to discover the murderer and their motive, all the while wrestling with the player for control of his actions. Does the player actually help Joe or does the player keep on getting in the way of solving the murder?

Joe McCoy’s Puppet Closet is a game about the illusion of power between the player who normally controls the game and the main characters who have their own life and reality. You do not have to interact to enjoy the show, but once you do, you can experience some power over the story. This results in a struggle between the player who wants to play the story and the characters who have their own life and want to make their own decisions in their story. As a player you need to find a balance in interacting with the characters so you do not completely loose control. If you help the main character, he will help you. Furthermore, the characters experience power struggles between them. As the game progresses, the more the player gets to know about the relationships between the characters and the real reason behind the murder.

video_2015-05-15_11-47-17 from Jelle van den Heuvel on Vimeo.


  • Narrative Design:

In our design approach, we made one storyline that the player has no influence on. A designer cannot take a good written storyline, cut it up to create different endings and still expect every path to be as great as the original storyline. The power of the interactivity of a game is giving the player the freedom in how he or she wants to experience the story. In our design, the experience paths you create come together at important points in the story, after which they diverge again. For example, if a character has to give you important information you can ignore them or talk to them, but one way or another they will give you the information. Even if players cannot influence the story, they can have to freedom to experience it in their own way. This way the designer does not have to transform a story to adapt it to a game, the writer does not have to think up different endings which are as good as the original one and the player still has the feeling of power and freedom in the game. So the writer and the designer both practice their own skill without having to interfere with one another. The writers’ story is set and the designers’ gameplay is set but the player still has the freedom to create the story in his mind.

In the “Narrative Design” section I will elaborate more upon our findings.

Artwork on this page by Sytze Brommersma.

JoeSprites17-Brommersma JoeSprites7-Brommersma JoeSprites3-Brommersma


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