“Pieces of Herself” by Juliet Davis is an incredibly interesting piece of interactive fiction in which the author utilizes a dress-up doll flash game to tell the story of a lost and rather broken women.
The reader is given an introduction screen that explains how a nameless woman is attempting to reassemble her lost identity, and he or she is encouraged help her on her journey.
The work is comprised of several bleak, black-and-white settings — the shower, bedroom, outside, kitchen, office, and main street — in which various colored and animated objects are hidden, representing the various bits and pieces that comprise the woman in question’s identity. The reader is encouraged to explore each setting closely in order to find each piece of the woman or to trigger some sort of music or animation that further reveals her as a whole. In the shower room, for example, scrolling over the stalls, sinks, mirrors, and walls can result in the finding of everything from germs and fingerprints to blood and wads of hair.
After discovering these objects, the reader can drag and drop them onto the woman’s blank silhouette and arrange them however he or she pleases. Once dropped, the objects will either trigger music, a voice-over from the woman, or sounds (many of which may carry throughout the rest of the game). For example, when the wad of hair is dragged onto the woman’s body, she discusses her displeasure over how her hair is slowly graying and she must now dye it; or, when a colorful cloud found in the bedroom is placed on her body, “Dream a Little Dream of Me” plays.
Some objects, even if they are not capable of being dragged, can still make noises or move about — in the bedroom, for example, the woman’s answering machine will play whether it has been scrolled over or not, delivering worrisome messages left by a lover, a friend, and her mother. Similarly, in the living room, the TV will play (though it must be scrolled over), presenting a quick clip from Oprah, and outside, the National Anthem will play when a flag is clicked.
As the reader moves from room to room and collects object after object, he or she becomes increasingly overwhelmed with visual and auditory stimulation. The figure becomes more and more cluttered with images, and sounds bytes begin to overlap and blend together, all for the purpose of representing the woman as not just a silhouette, but as a complex, conflicted, and distressed human being. Her heartbreak is revealed through floating journal scribblings and messages from her lover, her insecurities are expressed through her comments about feeling shame towards her body and working primarily to afford cosmetic surgery, and her regrets are revealed in her uneasy statements that she once wished her children to have the best and must hide who she is at work in order to avoid sexism and speculation.
The story only truly stops once all the objects have been collected and/or triggered, but yet there is no true resolution that I could find, perhaps to express that no one can fully understand themselves, as they are constantly changing and facing new conflicts. My only disappointments regarding this piece, which I found to have a powerful message regarding self esteem, worth, and understanding, was that the woman was in no way revealed to be whole in the end and the sound bytes could, at times, become very difficult to hear, control, or understand, though, perhaps, that too was a portion of the overall message.
In the end, the woman is truly only who the reader chooses to make of her, and the story itself can never be viewed as a singular, clear picture, just as life cannot be.