Dear Esther > General Discussions > Topic Details
maladuir Jun 21, 2013 @ 7:30pm
Meh.
It's pretty, yeah. Good story, yeah. But not a lot of choice. And that's what makes a game different from reading a book. You get to choose, and in so doing, identify with the protagonist. There's none of that here. There story is shouted at you as you move through it on train tracks. Again, not saying it's a bad story. It's definitely interesting. I'd just choose a different medium to tell it. Recommend buying it if the price drops below that of a paperback.
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Gus the Crocodile Jun 21, 2013 @ 8:42pm 
Indeed, choice is what makes a game different from a book. And the fact that you have choice - the choice to to take a second look behind you into that cave, to step a little closer to that cliff to see down over it, to just stand at the top of a hill for a while instead of being pushed ahead by the writing - is why DE was made a game. You don't have choice in the traditional narrative that's given to you, no (it's not a role-playing game, and not advertised as such), but games have other abilities than just narrative delivery.
maladuir Jun 21, 2013 @ 9:00pm 
Right, but of what value is the choice? How does it effect the impact of the story? My contention is this: there are no decisions of value, no paths. Therefore the choice isn't one between two real alternatives, it is as though the player is a museum patron, allowed to view an exhibit either from near, far, left or right, and at whatever pace he chooses. This doesn't make it a game, though I would argue it makes for compelling interactive media. Again, the story is great - it's just not a game.

On another note, the title "Meh." of my previous post was perhaps a little strong. I respect the strength of story the team has gone for here - god knows we need more of it when our choices are between the next Gears of War tripe or Halo bore-fest. I respect their attempt to move gaming into something more cerebral than yet another kill-a-thon. I just wish they would have given the player some options. That's really my only gripe.
Gus the Crocodile Jun 21, 2013 @ 9:16pm 
Well to me, the choice is of huge value. If that choice were removed, and the game were actually as you described it earlier (moving through on train tracks), I'm certain it wouldn't be anywhere near as powerful an experience. The choices DE gives you are, to me, what makes it a game and not just the museum piece you're describing (not that, uh, games can't be museum pieces, I guess) - and more importantly the choices give it the ability to get inside your head in ways being held separate wouldn't allow.

I wrote a blog post[zecrocodil.tumblr.com] after playing it upon release, noting the point at which this happened for me. I think it's really interesting what Dear Esther shows us about the power of elements of gameplay (I would say the simplest elements, but I'm not sure they're so simple - fundamental might be a better word) that we usually take for granted.

I just wish they would have given the player some options.
Well, it was an experiment. The goal of the project was to take a first person game, strip back gameplay, and see what you get. So "giving the player some options" would have been pointless. Not that that invalidates your response or your desire, just, you know, context.
Last edited by Gus the Crocodile; Jun 21, 2013 @ 9:16pm
///Papryg Jul 28, 2013 @ 9:07am 
I would this than book :P
Joyntsun Aug 4, 2013 @ 11:10am 
Originally posted by maladuir:
Right, but of what value is the choice? How does it effect the impact of the story? My contention is this: there are no decisions of value, no paths. Therefore the choice isn't one between two real alternatives, it is as though the player is a museum patron, allowed to view an exhibit either from near, far, left or right, and at whatever pace he chooses. This doesn't make it a game, though I would argue it makes for compelling interactive media. Again, the story is great - it's just not a game.

Agree a lot with this.

I believe strongly that video games can portray much more than mere strategy or competition, and involve in depth narratives and compelling stories. Most games only have the "illusion of choice" as you have described (i.e. Half-Life, Bioshock: Can you really choose where the story goes?). And I don't think to be considered a game one must necessarily manipulate the experience through on screen actions.

I think the best games effectively use the creativity and ingenuity that the video game meduim can provide to create a space in which the player/audience can interact with the story, but the interaction happens off screen in their own imagination. Books are compelling- and they lack the onscreen images or interaction. It is the writing and storytelling that creates the imagination space.

I don't think "Meh" is too strong here. With Esther I was curious to see what this "experiment" could do, and for me it failed to impress both as a game, and as a story. At the end I unfortunately concluded that this art/game was attempting to impress by affecting greater importance than it actually possessed. Its pretentious. Which is one of the worst things that can happen to an artist I think.

Someone on this forum said that they would have really liked to have jumped off the tower at the end themselves. I totally agree with that. That really would have been a great example of using the game medium to enhance storytelling. Sure, you aren't directly controlling where the story goes, but the experience of the narrator jumping off, committing to his fate would be shared by you, the player/reader/audience. You can't do that in a book, or a painting. It was definitely a missed opportunity.
Gus the Crocodile Aug 4, 2013 @ 5:28pm 
Originally posted by Joyntsun:
At the end I unfortunately concluded that this art/game was attempting to impress by affecting greater importance than it actually possessed. Its pretentious. Which is one of the worst things that can happen to an artist I think.
Importance isn't possessed, it's interpreted. So to call something pretentious because you didn't have a particular interpretation is surely pretentious in itself, no? It necessarily involves the elevation of your interpretation above others, if failing your expectations constitutes "one of the worst things that can happen to an artist". (And on that note, you thinking something is pretentious, or anything else, isn't something that happens to an artist, it's something that happens to you)

I think the word "pretentious" is one of the worst things to ever happen to art criticism, really. It turns everything it comes near into some ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ intellectual competition. Rather than people just responding to the work and talking about how they felt (or didn't feel), you get all these presumptuous implications about the artist not "knowing their place", so to speak. In most cases, I see it as little more than a descent into base insults, because it usually says next to nothing about the work.

Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with not being impressed by DE. But even though this work is more explicitly experimental, to some extent all art is experimental, and the thing about experiments is, they don't always work out. That doesn't mean they have any professed "importance" at all.

-----------------

I do agree about having control taken away at the tower, as it happens. I think the original mod at least let you climb the ladder yourself, and I think it was a more powerful moment for it (it's been a while, I don't really remember that well). The game's removal of all other controls except looking and moving makes their impact even larger (which I think is the game's big success, in highlighting their power), but it means taking them away is also a larger disconnection from the experience.

I don't know why they did it - at a guess I suspect it was probably done to manage some messy potential player behaviour like turning too far, falling off the ladder and struggling to regain control, which might have felt too "gamey" if it happened. I can understand that reasoning at least, but if it was anything like that I think there are better solutions.
Spieluhr Aug 5, 2013 @ 4:21am 
I think there are lots of completely linear games out there that people love and stuff, so I can't quite agree.
I do agree about the value of choice in games.
But still, I don't think a movie would be effective for Dear Esther, and a book wouldn't give you the semi-randomized mechanics that made me go back to the island each time, it just wouldn't work the same way (and the more I did the narrator said something along the words "can't remember how many times I've been here, I know this place by heart"). Maybe it'd still work, but it wouldn't be the same.
I have the illusion of choice and freedom of movement somewhat in Dear Esther, and I agree with Gus here, it wouldn't work the same in a different medium (though yeah it could be improved like being able to make the jump manually, or maybe picking up objects temporarily to look closer)

It took me a while to "get" Dear Esther. I'm a fan of artsy-fartsy games like Tale of Tales' games (The Path), Sword & Sworcery, FEZ, Coil (yes that free Steam mini-game), etc. But this was SO BORING. However, by the time I started replaying chapters I started getting really into it, or rather into ~thinking~ about it. Maybe calling this a game is too much, maybe I'd call it an interactive poem-riddle-story or something hahah. Or something chemical that takes prolonged exposure to work.
It felt like a poem, and I don't even like poetry, but the words and the world moved me. I really didn't expect it to make me feel so sentimental. Maybe it has a little to do with a recent loss in my family.

It reminded me a lot of TRAUMA, which disappointed me because it feels too small to pay for (specially cause there's a free version online), and the "story" goes nowhere... but the themes, that strange feel, the "non-gaming"... I liked Dear Esther much better, and TRAUMA has more gamey mechanics.
Last edited by Spieluhr; Aug 5, 2013 @ 4:22am
BarZ Aug 10, 2013 @ 2:33pm 
I bought this game mainly with hopes that it would get Oculus Rift (Virtual Reality Headset) support. Now after reading what the OP explained as the gameplay I am even more excited at the idea of playing it with my Oculus Rift.

I have trouble getting my girlfriend into some of the games I like and this concept of a story that unfolds as you get "train tracked" through out seems like the perfect setting to have her explore in VR.

I recently found how useful audio books are in my life (due to lack of time/desire to sit and just read) so imagining the amount of immersion you could bring to gamers using this technology is amazing! You would not only be telling them a fantastic story by way of audio but then completely immerse them in all the visual details of the world you are attempting to create for them without the confines of looking through a small window on your desktop.
Last edited by BarZ; Aug 10, 2013 @ 2:35pm
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