Upon finishing the game, and a conclusion of thoughts...
So I've been reading some discussions about what this game is, and I thought I'd contribute my own findings as well.
I think of "Dear Esther" as a game that defies expectations with the player. As you are traversing the island, you almost have an ingrained knowledge that somewhere something will attack you or that you will have to attack something. It kind of creates a dissonance between what you're actually doing and what you're expecting. Once the player deals with the anxiety of attack, it allows the idea of discovery to take hold. It filters game mechanics to two ideas: narrative and exploration, and asks is this still a game? Instead of high-scores, levels, cool items, or any other superficial ranking, can something more profound be gained? An emotional discovery or constructing a metaphorical explaination? I think where games tend to function as a means of escape and a means of entertainment. "Dear Esther" flips these functions on its head: instead of escape, we see glimpses of reality, dark emotional truths we want to avoid. Instead of entertainment we experience a haunting trek of a man's depressive episode of loss and the inabilty to cope with it. We aren't getting an adrenaline rush or awing at explosions. We feel perplexed, disturbed, and lost, but by disarming our sense of comfortability. We are open to be amazed and entranced. We see something beautiful, and not just see, but "feel" beauty. Experiencing the narrative's thoughts of loss and his ultimate conclusion is almost euphoric. It gives off the catharsis of thematic ideas resolved, while still leaving curiositiy dangling for another playthrough.
It reminds me of W.G. Sebald's book The Rings of Saturn, in which a man is going on a walking tour, but which serves merely as a frame. The plot goes off on a tangent of stories, which all connect, and deal with themes of time and memory.
Last edited by Leon
Jun 24, 2013 @ 8:41am