North Haven painter and multiple Dan’s Papers cover artist Grant Haffner’s career is blowing up this year. Now known worldwide for his colorful and propulsive paintings of East End roads and utility poles, Haffner is working furiously to complete a long line of commissions, but—as passionate artists often do—he’s still made time to create some unique art for art’s sake.
On Monday, Haffner revealed his latest side project, Story Mode, a rudimentary but beautiful and surprisingly engaging digital “Choose Your Own Adventure”-style game on haffnervision.com, the former home of Haffner’s blog and a small store where he sold prints and other items, including editions by his artist friends, hats, T-shirts and more. But with his skyrocketing profile, the painter said it was time to remove all that and revamp.
“Too many people are looking at it,” Haffner said, noting that he’s had half a million hits on his granthaffner.com website in recent months, so he wasn’t comfortable having Haffnervision appear less than perfectly focused and professional. For now, that site leads directly to Story Mode, and it’s well worth a look.
The game is a simple, text-based story with each page featuring one of Haffner’s painted illustrations and, usually, two story options—”Do you go north or south?”— that when clicked lead to another page and more options—”Keep walking or turn around?” Players continue the story, which takes them on a walk through the woods, until finally reaching one of several endings—most of which result in a horrible death at the hands of, well, you’ll have to play to find out.
Of course, like any game, Story Mode can be won. Haffner confirms that the game has three “happy” endings, one of which, perhaps the happiest of happy endings, brings the player to a peaceful place without any sort of conflict at all.
“Over the past two years I’ve really gotten back into the gaming world,” Haffner says, explaining that video games were a big part of his childhood and he’s embracing them again. “They really can be art,” he adds.
With his busy painting schedule, Haffner has had little time to actually play games these days, but he often watches streaming broadcasts of others playing online, especially while he paints. “You can see someone else beat it,” he says of the games he’d like to have time to play.
Haffner says Story Mode provided a welcome diversion for him during this stretch of serious work in the studio. Before he was so busy, the artist says he was working on a much more detailed and expansive version of the game, which even has a cover paying tribute to the original Choose Your Own Adventure children’s game books by Hamptons resident Edward Packard. “It’s really a much more polished version of the one I put together,” Haffner says, describing the original project, which may or may not ever see the light of day. “The original one I kind of put on hold.”
In the meantime, Story Mode is no small accomplishment. “I hope to show the world I’m not just painting road scenes,” Haffner says of the project, acknowledging that it’s also a showcase of his illustration skills.
He designed the game to be found in an almost hidden link on his regular art website, which is visited far more often than Haffnervision. “I just wanted to create an Easter egg for people to find,” he adds, using a well known gamer term used to describe hidden bits of unique in-game content, jokes, pop culture references or shoutouts to other titles, or even the game’s developers and their friends.
Once you’re playing, take our advice and tread carefully at the campsite…