Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Dear Esther

 Good morrow gamers, I bring a very interesting and poignant video game (or shall we call it, an interactive story book) to the table for discussion today. 

Dear Esther, originally released in 2008 by indie-dev thechineseroom, has been remade utilising the graphical advancements within the Portal 2 edition of the Source engine.  

Buy it : Here!

 This is a a game that does not see you running around wielding weapons, superpowers or anything out of the ordinary. It is as best put, a mysterious stroll through a lucid landscape that captivates and sets on fire the senses you get when reading a book and yearn for the next snippet to help unwravel the mystery surrounding why/how you are there.

To explain the story here would not do the game or you, the reader, any justice. It is something to be experienced. I will describe the play itself and from that I would like you to deduce whether this is something that could interest you.

You walk around, admittedly at a mind-numbingly slow pace to begin with but then you stop noticing, across this vast island, over and under the landscape through various times of day. As you make your way through the game, it takes excerpts of audio (of a man reading) and play's them to you. This selection is made mostly at random by the game, which is why it generates such a personal and unique meaning to each player as the majority of players will have a completely unique playthrough that may lead them to different meanings/understandings. Once these 'excerpts' of audio and the surroundings pique your interest, it is very easy to become lost in it's world.

The music is chilling and slightly haunting which fits perfectly with the mystery-theme within the games narrative and design. The audio work for this game is something that must be commended and not forgotten about even though the indirect-narrative is the driving force which forces you to press on within the game.
 Hard to believe the Source engine can be so beautiful...

I picked this up a couple of days ago on Steam for the price of £6.99, which I found a little on the expensive side for an experience that lasts the best past of 2-hours and while there is "some" replay value in getting different excerpts of narrative while traversing the "island", the dramatic effect that the initial playthrough has, truly creates a unique and personal experience for each player.
I would say that the meaning and emotions evoked for me were truly as personal as how they would have been evoked for the next gamer.

This really shows that we are still just scratching the surface in how we are making videogames and also in how we are experiencing them.

I recently wrote a thesis on the effects of the constant barrage of emotion by videogames on gamers and found, quite surprisingly, that people who game more, do not become desensitised to emotion, quite the opposite was found, instead we are found to be much more in-tune with the world around us and can process the emotional cues of our surroundings with greater success. 

Personally, I'd like to watch a person who had never played a video game before who also has very built-up opinions as to what they are like and then sit them down and make them play this and say, this is what the industry strives for, not what you see at the top of the video games charts today whereby it is dominated by terminal sequilitis.


Hex DSL said...

It's great how so many Modders and Indie developers are being supported by steam/desura and even indie promotion packs.

If i was the likes of EA i would be very worried that i was going to become irrelevant

Roonast said...

It's really refreshing to see all these indie devs doing well considering closed-off devs and publishers are making the industry. The indie scene is blowing it wide-open at a faster rate than they can lock it up which is awesome!

Fully agree, EA/Activision and many others have been treading on toes and trying to get every last penny out of gamers for time, it wont be long until the tidal shift pushes them out. Especially since an indie dev ranges from a few pounds to at most a tenner while the rehashed game formulas have a £40-50 price tag! :(

hangman said...

When you eventually get around to posting a blog, I am always reminded how good your stuff is. POST MORE OFTEN.

Roonast said...

Thanks man that means alot :) Its finding time inbetween the 600+ tasks I have a day for uni xD But I will try and get more stuff posted! :D