Dear Esther Vignettes (Comments May Contain Spoilers)

If the tag of “Walking Simulator” gave you a moment of apprehension, well let me tell you you can you can do more than walk. Kinda. Your flashlight has buttons, not that you really “control” them.

I started this thread to give people a place  share any particularly cool/meh/sweet moments, views, insights they may have found. If you should put SPOILERS in the body of your comment. This post itself does not contain spoilers but invariably the comments might. Read at your own risk. (The butler did it, BTW)

The evolution of the world.

The evolution of the world.

In addition I wanted to have a place where folks could post interesting examinations/reviews. Please no IGN “This game is lame, Imma gonna go tea-bag a noob” sort of thing. Unless of course you have some sort of personal commentary regarding a deeper level of gamer culture as a reaction to follow it. An example of the former from

“Yes, but is this the right medium for that story?”

Also any play styles used to get the most out of the game? For example I am doing couch play on a largish HD tv via controller with my GF. For me this makes it “OK” just to kind of drift from scene to scene casual like. If I were at my work station with KB+M this experience would be different.

8 Comments on Dear Esther Vignettes (Comments May Contain Spoilers)

  1. A research resource which recently went offline can be found via the wayback machine: The Chinese Room blog. There you will find scripts – not all of which a single play through will provide…

  2. Some biblical details/parallels slightly examined…

    Damascus, Esther, etc

  3. For all of you that, like me, can’t write fast enough to jot everything down as it’s being spoken, this helped me keep up with the script and be able to re evaluate my opinions and stances of the story. This is the entire script for Dear Esther.

  4. One thing that I personally loved, regardless of my opinions on the gameplay itself, was the intentionality and purpose of the absolute first moment of the game after the menu screen. In case you’ve forgotten, it starts with a fade-in from black, a vignette playing, so that you are starting along the coast at the radio beacon in the mist, its red light blinking. If you just turn the mouse, to your left is a ramp descending into the pen sea. There’s no ambiguity in that moment. It tells you exactly what you’re going to be doing in the game. This is what you’re going to be experiencing (looking intently and listening), that is where you’re going, and the only way there is through the island. I’m sure that that moment can build a lot into the building of meaning, but I always appreciate examining exactly what a designer DOES to create meaning, not just what a designer says.

  5. I actually enjoyed the ambiguity of the story in this game. Since the gameplay does not allow the player to get all the monologues from one playthrough, it leaves the player to arrive to a different conclusion when played again or from others with different gaming habits. Exploring other players’ different interpretation became part of the gaming experience for me as it changed my interpretation of the game as well.

    Additionally, my gaming preference and the various habits developed from that shaped my attitude toward the game as a whole. As a gamer who loves to play survival horror or rpg, I ended up trying to explore every inch of the island. Every time a monologue started to play, it felt like an achievement to me, which I initially decided to have as my goal of the game about 5 mins into the gameplay.

    Also, the game heavily relies on the player’s ability to remember what he hears and sees throughout the game. In may case, i had hard time due to the fact that the narrator talked too fast for me to fully understand what he was saying. As such, I ended up trying to piece small individual details hidden throughout the game to make sense of the story I was in. Building on to that, the game’s lack of nondiegetic elements such as points, hints, maps, etc… the game became incredibly immersive for me as it required my utmost attention and my imagination (playing this game on a large screen in a dark room with a headset on at midnight may have helped as well).

  6. Something that intrigues me about this game that we haven’t gotten the chance to talk about in class is the words the Narrator speaks when you “die” before the end of the game. He immediately stops talking and says “Come back.” It’s not the traditional “Game Over” sign that you would normally see, but “Come back” as the screen fades to black, and soon find yourself near the point where you “died” in the game. I find it interesting that out of all possibilities, the game designers choose “come back” as their way of saying “game over.” The question is, why? What purpose does it hold?

    I’ve been thinking about it in terms of the coma theory that was brought up today in class. What if the narrator is reading a series of letters he wrote to his comatose wife, and each time you die, it’s the wife “dying” as well, but the narrator tells her to come back so he can finish reading the letters he wrote.

    Obviously there’s numerous ways to interpret the meaning of the words “come back” but those are just my thoughts on it. Anyone have any other theories?

    • Great point, Serena. We can explore this by assuming your theory and applying it to other aspects of the game. If the narration is letter reading to a comatose Esther, it is hard to assimilate the psychological states of the narrator and the varied content that gets incorporated into the “letters.” What are we to make of the references to Jakobson and the mysterious hermit? What are we to make of the aggravated delivery of some ideas and the narrative of coincidences (and the fascination with them?). How can we make sense of the experience of the island, its weird status as a reality?

      One thing your comment gets me to thinking is about the ambiguity of the title: Dear Esther. The phrase suggests a salutation form (as in the start of a private letter), but we might also think about how the game draws on another emphasis: the nature of someone being “dear” – a beloved or cherished person…

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