Critical Play: Dear Esther

  • This was an incredible game to play. Although I’ve always considered narratives to be a non-essential component and something that’s a “hit or miss” depending on the background of the player, Dear Esther has proved me wrong by building almost 0 game mechanisms into a story that relies 100% on narrative storytelling.
  • Unlike other games that give the players many resources to give players the “illusion of choice” with the objective to overcome specific challenges with the timer winding down, Dear Esther stripped away all potential action buttons to give its user a standardized narrative experience. In many ways, it made me the player feel more powerless and vulnerable to whatever imminent danger the music seemed to foreshadow constantly.
  • The whole island was uncharted territory, and the player was simply placed on the island without any instructions on the game’s objectives. It arouses the discovery curiosity within the players and also incorporated many ASMR noises, such as the sound of the wind and the sea waves crashing into the cliffs, to heighten the physical sensation that players feel during the game. Another thing it did really well was the simulation of the underwater experience. I thought it was extremely clever since the biggest root of fear that people have of the sea is the “unknown” component, and the game was able to replicate that with trippy flashy images without going through the incredible difficulties of modeling a 3-dimensional underground water experience.
  • Many times I felt frustrated when I have exhaustively explored all the possible physical territory and there seems to be no proper clues (procedures) on what’s supposed to happen next. However, when I inevitably overcome the challenge, the soothing narrator’s voice seems to quell all anxieties I was feeling before. Overall, this game was able to change my negative opinions towards games that solely relies on narrative plays to make the game “fun”.

About the author

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.