On paper, Story of Everyone is a really neat idea. It’s a small little adventure game with minimal interaction where you can build a personality for the player character by designing their favourite childhood toy, choosing their hairstyle and whom they want to kiss at the school dance. The game even uses the computer’s microphone to allow the player to voice their person at important moments in their life. All the decisions you make, sounds you record and objects you design get uploaded to a database where they can appear in other player’s playthroughs.
For example, at one point you’ll have a child and get to name it, design it clothes and wall paper for its nursery. Later the next player will start their play through with that child and the database will source their game with details you left behind. Your character will appear as the parent to whomever inherits your child as the player character. They’ll hear your voice served to them as their parent’s characteristic sound, the message you wrote on the school’s blackboard will still be there when they arrive and so on. It’s a really cool idea the devs intended it to show how an individual’s identity is a combination of their own choices and the choices of those influential on them.
Then the internet ruined it, and Story of Everyone is way better for it.
Naturally the anonymous players couldn’t avoid taking the opportunity to mess with the games database. Any hope I had of taking the game at face value was ruined as the previous player had left me with the name Falkor the Jr. Destroyer. To top it off they pretty much yelled the name into the microphone, meaning any time my own name was mentioned it blasted out of my speakers as loud as it could. Also I was born with a clown mask on, as the previous player used the hair designer tool to make a mask that covered his face instead of more conventional hair. Later when I walked into my school the word KILL was left etched on the blackboard from his run through the game. The game’s database populates the characters from all the previous runs through the game. So my school teacher also had a clown mask on making that classroom more of a satanic horror temple than a classroom.
Yes, this is absolutely more entertaining than has the game been served to straight up. As is the player character’s life is a surrealist blur of mundane life progression coloured with this vandalism. In fact the outlandishness of what the game’s database offered me actually highlighted what the developers were trying to get at. To escape the aggressive horror traits pre-assigned to Falkor the Jr. Destroyer I had to actively select traits and characteristics unlike my assigned parents. I had to rebel and make my own destiny, in this case by trying to make the most average child possible. Sure I was stuck with my assigned parents, and my friends Xerxes and Jemina Bumberdill. But I got to choose my own hair, life partner and name of my own child. The absurd traits I was assigned made it easy to identify how traits and identity work in the game.
Story of Everyone works better if those traits are visible and not blended into the rest of the narration. Of course, I couldn’t leave the next player with an average boring character. So I played through again and gave them a child named Plastic who can’t put glasses on their face correctly. The next player would thank me when they get it.