HOW TO Nathaniel Berens on how he constructed a haunting narrative in Sagebrush
Berens wished to depict a cult with more nuance (and realism) than is typically seen in videogames. “That necessarily meant brushing up against sensitive topics like physical, emotional, and sexual abuse,” Berens says.
Berens scoured books, interviews, and audio recordings (including the chilling final moments of Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple) for first-hand information on cult operations, as well as how they affect people in their thrall.
Acknowledging Blind Spots
Father James, the cult patriarch, is a contradictory mix of character flaws and empathic manipulation. Faith and smoke. This was intentional, but Berens admits his inability to relate to the character weakened the depiction.
Players experience the story after its events, distancing them from horrors of the compound. Imagery is also evocative rather than graphic, allowing you to analyse what happened in a way that disturbs but retains dignity.