‘The Quiet Things’ is a challenging narrative game that aims to crack the stigma surrounding abuse
Content warning: The Quiet Things addresses abuse and childhood trauma, which this interview touches on.
Alyx Jones has been busy. In 2022, the developer — who has worked on audio for Elden Ring, Xenoblade Chronicles 3, and 2020’s Final Fantasy 7 remake — was named one of BAFTA’s Breakthroughs of 2022, marking her as a fast-rising star in the UK’s game industry.
Last year also saw Jones found Silver Script Games, though she tells NME that its opening months were largely spent handling the joys of taxes and “admin stuff”. With those thrills safely in the wing mirror, Silver Script’s goal is to debut with The Quiet Things: an emotionally challenging, autobiographical narrative game that tells the story of Jones’ upbringing.
In The Quiet Things, players must uncover diary entries and memories to piece together the life of Alice, who is played by The Dumping Ground‘s Charlie Morris and serves as a fictional stand-in for Alyx. Jones warns The Quiet Things can be “upsetting” — its story consists of her own experiences with sexual abuse, homelessness, mental health struggles and the death of her mother — and Alice’s journal entries are based on a diary that Jones wrote in her youth.
This is very much Jones’ story to tell, but she “doesn’t know anything about art” — meaning that bringing it to life is an effort shared with a handful of developers. The Silver Script founder says that although it has been “challenging” to revisit moments from her youth, it helped to implement a level of separation during development. Besides swapping Jones out for a fictional character, every other character from her upbringing has been replaced with different names.
“We talk about [Alice] as a separate character, rather than me being ‘I did this, I did that’ — it almost becomes a separated story,” explains Jones, who jokes that it’s ultimately left to her to remember who everybody actually is. “It’s easier to take a slight step away from it and talk about it like that.”
When The Quiet Things was conceived, it was initially going to take that degree of separation even further. “Originally when I was making the game, I didn’t want the player to be me,” says Alyx, who thought the game would be more immersive if players felt like they were in control of their own character.
“I wanted them to be in a virtual museum,” she continued. “But when we showed [The Quiet Things] at Game Dev London Expo, everybody immediately was like, ‘Is my mum going to die?’ when they were playing the demo. I saw they were literally being me, whether I liked it or not, so I needed to adapt how we were making the game because [players] are literally in my shoes.”
Jones values that sense of immersion. While traditional media — films, books and television shows — has become bolder with tackling “taboo” discussions on sexual abuse and mental health, Jones hopes The Quiet Things can help gaming catch up and break down the stigma of those subjects, while simultaneously offering a powerful medium.
“[Gaming] is different from reading a book, or watching a film, because you’re not removed from it — you’re much more part of the experience, controlling what happens on screen makes it so much more immersive. You always feel like it was you.”
Additionally, Jones feels the one-to-one nature of single-player titles allows for more intimate — and ultimately more affecting — experiences. “You can play it in your own private space, you’re not watched by anyone,” she explains. “It’s not like going to the cinema and being in a public space — that’s why [gaming] is a good medium to be able to tell that story, because you can privately experience that in your own time and space and deal with those more complicated emotions that come along with it.”
However, Jones acknowledges that merely telling her story isn’t enough for Silver Script’s debut to find success. “You’re making it a product at the end of the day,” says Jones, who points out that although autobiographical games are deeply personal to their creators, they still need to click with fans and make enough money to “justify their existence”.
It’s a topic Jones has discussed with Nina Freeman, the influential indie developer behind Cibele and Last Call — titles that, like The Quiet Things, are based on personal experiences. Freeman is one of three major developers who have mentored Jones through the BAFTA Breakthrough programme, with the other two being Life Is Strange writer Jean-Luc Cano and Double Fine founder Tim Schafer. Jones says these one-to-one mentoring sessions have been “invaluable,” and taught her to write The Quiet Things in a way that keeps players engaged throughout.
Ultimately, their support has taken Jones a step closer to realising Silver Script’s vision. While The Quiet Things‘ title refers to victims feeling like their experiences are something to be hidden, the studio’s debut will be a statement of opposites: a game that tackles the stigma surrounding abuse head-on, and helps those in a similar situation to Jones realise they are “not alone in the world”.
“I’ve always loved games, and if I’d had [her experiences represented] in a medium I would have engaged in, it might not have stopped things happening but I might have been more aware of it,” says Jones. “It doesn’t stop people doing awful things to each other, but you might be able to protect yourself better earlier on.”
Crowdfunding for The Quiet Things begins on June 6 — you can visit its Kickstarter page and click “notify me on launch” to follow the project.