'Grey Story': A Boy, a Girl, and Invisibility

Like a short story, flash games have the advantage of being able to really focus on a singular theme or simple emotional expression. By that definition, Grey Story is the video game equivalent of a short story.

Grey Story

Publisher: Armor Games
Format: PC
Price: free
Players: 1
ESRB Rating: N/A
Developer: Kevin McGrath
Release Date: 2011-08-10

The more that I play flash games (and a lot of console DLC for that matter), the more that I have the tendency of thinking that these “shortened” versions of games are kind of the equivalent in this medium of the short story. Like a short story, flash games have the advantage of being able to really focus on a singular theme or simple emotional expression without getting such things lost in the complexity of a long form title, which usually treats multiple themes and a complex web of characters, like a novel might.

In that sense, the description of Grey Story on the front page of New Grounds as a “short story of a boy and the girl of his dreams” seems a very sensible description of this game and what it offers to its player.

There is nothing exceptionally complex about Grey Story. It is a platformer, in which you will move two directions (left and right) and you will jump. Graphically, it is extremely simple, featuring two characters, the silhouettes of a vaguely male (which you control) player character and a vaguely female non-player character. The backdrop of the game begins as a grey world with a few details that suggest an environment that these characters live in, some houses and vegetation (again, all of which are basically “greyed out”).

The only initial colors in the world are a few arrows (six or seven, maybe) of all different colors (purple, yellow, orange, etc.) that indicate a direction for the player to take. Following one of these arrows will eventually lead the boy to some object -- perhaps, a lollipop, a teddy bear, or a necklace -- that the boy can pick up and return to the silhouette of the girl on the initial ledge where the game started.

And that’s it, there is little more to the game than this simple collect and return mechanic, a bit of moody music, and the changes that returning an object to the girl causes to the game world.

When the boy returns an object to the girl, she will not change one iota. She remains reclining on the ledge, her hair blowing slightly in the wind. The arrows reappear and the player can go seek another bauble to return to her. The only way that achievement is marked is that the grey world in the background will now include within it some objects that have been colored in whatever color corresponds with the object successfully returned to the girl (for example, if you brought her the purple lollipop, then the world will now include some purple coloration).

There doesn’t seem to be any direct message that the game offers. Instead, each success just seems like an expression of bittersweet triumph and young male anxiety. While many video games fixate on the traditional “save the princess” model of masculine identity, Grey Story does not feature an epic and heroic quest of salvation leading to romance. Instead, the game’s objectives require a bit of work on the part of the player that goes unnoticed by the object of a boy’s affection.

As I noted, this feels like an expression of young male anxiety about getting noticed by a girl, and the invisibility that sometimes seems to still persist despite such efforts. That the world itself changes suggests that the boy is doing something, something is happening as a result of his efforts. Nevertheless, all the “look at me!” antics of youth provoke no clear response in she whom he seeks to charm. The game’s ending (which occurs once all the objects have been returned) reinforces this idea in an even more definitive way. I won’t get specific about the exact details of this brief conclusion, but it is, as noted before, a very small and bittersweet expression of the terror of invisibility to the opposite sex.

Again, as noted, the graphics won’t blow anyone away, nor is the gameplay anything especially unique or special, but the title does express itself simply and clearly. It captures a little piece of human experience, focuses exclusively on it, and evokes enough metaphoric sense of what youthful desire might mean to provoke a bit of sympathy for the protagonist’s situation -- which is, perhaps, all that a simple, straight forward short story needs to do.

Grey Story is currently available at New Grounds.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.