I met the work Dear Esther last night. It’s combines video game and short story. You, the game player, wander a stark Hebridean isle, while you, the story reader, hear and read prose poem stanzas. It’s surprisingly effective.
It is very good to see artists realise what has been obvious for a long time: video games are art; they offer serious potential for serious work.
This game coincides my youthful postgrad project, ‘interactive fiction’, not that it matters: the technology’s advanced; I didn’t complete.
I hope we see more like Dear Esther. I suspect we will. I don’t believe the many talents who’ve worked on video games, who’ve built the gameworlds, haven’t considered creating a place: to explore, to enjoy: without that childish need for guns and gore. I’m confident we will.
Please don’t get me wrong; anyone who’s played computer games will have seen the brilliant work within them. But the games have to recoup money, which usually means guns and gore. The game Doom 3 was great fun, but I’d have loved wander those settings, enjoy the music, for their own sake. I wanted the game with neither guns nor gore.
Indeed, I’ve often wondered spending the time to learn a game engine, creating an invented place. I’d have build on Mechanie. You’d wander the space among active loud machines, each their own small music. You’d decide what you’d hear, how they’d combine, by where you stood, where you faced, what each machine was doing. But I have never done so.
It is the creators of Dear Esther who have produced the result. I congratulate them. I want to see more. I suspect hope a new form is born. The potential is certain.
I also want to congratulate Steam for distributing Dear Esther into many peoples’ heads. Distribution is essential to art; if no one experiences your work, you’re playing with yourself.
PS Before I go, I must thumbs up Jessica Curry’s music. It’s very good. I don’t know whether it’s the Hebridean setting, or a real connection, but when I listened, I kept thinking Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. It’s probably the setting; you cannot disconnect Maxwell Davies from the northern isles.
PPS Just in case, these images aren’t from Dear Esther.