What is art? What does this word mean to you? What do you consider to be categorized as art? These are the forms of controversial questions that come up in discussions about classifying or defining things as art. I think that the answer to this question would be returned with varying responses; this is because I believe that the definition of art is very subjective. What one person considers as art to someone else might just be a blob with no significance or representation to him or her. Nonetheless in order to have a clear direction of what society accepts as art I will take the definition of art as written in the Oxford dictionary. Art is “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power” The words, emotion imagination, and appreciation of beauty stand out in this definition to me. When I think back on my recent experience in playing Dear Esther I can t but smile to my self because all these things are represented by the game. The emotional aspect of dear Esther for me also ties into the appreciation of beauty. During the course of the game I felt many emotions, but most of all a lot of my emotions were that of awe. Awe in the beauty of the scenery of the game, and appreciation for the representation of the environment due to the picturesque representation done by the graphic designer. With the imagination aspect, I felt myself thinking ahead of the game. Painting my own picture of the story as the narrative went along. And isn’t this what art is supposed to be? Interpreting the sense, and occurrences in Dear Esther, based off my personal connection to the events in the game.
As someone who isn’t a big gamer, when we got assigned Dear Esther as a game to play in class after Portal all I thought of was the dread of having to sit through hours in front of my computer playing a boring game. But low and behold I was surprised, from the initial moments of starting Dear Esther. The first thing that I noticed was there was no instructions of keyboard keys to control my character. As opposed to my experience playing Portal in which the 1st few moments in the game are spent in familiarizing you with the buttons that control your character. I was pleasantly surprised to see that this game would be a whole different experience to what I considered a traditional video game. As the game went along I found it hard to still refer to Dear Esther just a game. I starting battling using the terms art or an interactive book? In conjunction with game to define what Dear Esther is. But then again what characteristics define something as a game or art. I think that these characteristics are subjective. If you are one that enjoys shooting, racing, adventure and puzzles, and these are the things that define a game to you then No Dear Esther would not be a game to you. But for someone like me, who enjoys these same things while also appreciating the environment, the narrative, and the ability to set my pace in a game. I think I would firmly consider Dear Esther as a mixture of both a game and art. It is the 21st century fusion between great graphic designs, a beautiful narrative, wonderful music, all wrapped around as a puzzle for you to figure out. While it isn’t the conventional puzzles seen in most games, i.e. you don’t have a time limit to do anything, you don’t have a set goal, and you don’t get tokens or passes for anything. In its own form Dear Esther is still a puzzle, it’s a puzzle of information being fed to you as you progress along the game, and your part is to put all this information in the right order in order to get a clear picture of what the narrative truly means.
Most of the reviews of Dear Esther are varying. Some find it to be beautiful artwork, others find it to be tarnishing what Games are considered to be. But I think that what Dear Esther does well is simply mix the worlds of Video Gaming with Art exquisitely. Although most avid Video gamers would disagree that the two terms should be mutually exclusive, as someone looking at this world from the outside I believe otherwise. I do think that art and gaming can be mixed, and I do think that the reason why most people find Dear Esther to be so different from the gaming experiences they’ve had in the past is because it fuses these two worlds together well. Almost to the point where you can not separate which aspects fall under game characteristics or art characteristics With its breathtaking graphics combined with the mysteriousness of the game, its easy to see why the artistic aspect of Dear Esther leaves a lasting impact on most players. “Dear Esther’s atmosphere is the core of the game – it’s all of the game – and that’s a direct result of the haunting level design. Here, something as mundane as a lonely cottage on a hillside can end up lodged deeper in your gaming memory than the dragons and spaceships of countless other games”(Thursten). Dear Esther does a great job of taking something that most games also use but they transformed the graphics of the environment to a point where you leave the game in lasting awe of the beauty, it combines the mysteriousness and puzzle of games with appreciation of art into one. “ Whether or not you relate to it in the end, it will have been worth the experience. If you do connect with it, Dear Esther can change your perspective on what games could be doing.”(MacDonald) The multi dimensionality of Dear Esther is an experience that is not offered by most games nowadays. Dear Esther caters to an audience that enjoys the world of gaming and art. It is as most people who have played it describe it, an experience to be seen first hand. Before playing the game, I would have never thought that I would find such a thing interesting, but Dear Esther surprised me. It catered to my artistic side, while feeding that little side of me that enjoys gaming. It is an acquired taste. Its rarity in the gaming and art world is what makes it so beautiful and fascinating. “The biggest aspect one needs to consider is how the game makes you feel. In its most boiled-down form, art can be described at a conversation between the artist and the viewer. Just as what is considered "art" is highly subjective, but in the end it is either embraced or it is not.” (MrGhostly) I can truly say that I embraced Dear Esther; it got me thinking of how other games could be influenced by it. It also leaves me once again with the understanding that there is no barrier between art and game. The two terms are too subjective to be given a clear-cut definition.
Thurten, Chris. "Dear Esther Review." PC Gamer RSS. N.p., 13 Feb. 2012. Web. 15 Oct. 2013.
MacDonald, Keza. "Dear Esther Review." IGN. N.p., 13 Feb. 2012. Web. 15 Oct. 2013.
MrGhostly. "Dear Esther: Games as Art." To Play and to Know MMO Games Better. N.p., 12 June 2013. Web. 15 Oct. 2013.