Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Prompt 1: Reviewing the Reviews

            Every video game has something unique about it, no matter what kind of game you are playing. Some games are shooters, others are puzzles, some even are sports games, and these qualities can be listed for hours, but they all have goals to be achieved and interactions with the game itself. What does Dear Esther have? Dear Esther is a very interesting computer program, I do not call it a game because I do not believe it falls into the category of what a game is. Dear Esther is more of an interactive story than a computer game. “With no goals, guns, puzzles or any of the other things that you often find in games, Dear Esther is an experiment with the video game form, a piece of interactive visual storytelling” (MacDonald).
            First off, let’s review what happens in Dear Esther. The story starts off by placing you by an abandon building on the beach with a red beacon in the far distance. After taking a couple steps toward the building a voice stars talking and it accompanies you on your entire journey. The voice hardly makes sense and soon I found myself not even listening to it. For the entire story your character travels on a single path and all that you as the player do is hold down the W key to walk, only to switch fingers when one gets tired. Even when you finally find joy in reaching the end, the final scene takes all player-control away from you. For the entirety of the story all you do is walk around and take in the great picture that Dear Esther has to offer. There are no goals, no interactions with anything, and only one control; walk. Because of all these things it is hard to label Dear Esther anything more than an interactive story. Even professionals reviewing Dear Esther stated, “Dear Esther is such a purely audio/visual experience that I have to conclude it would be better as a short film” (Pinsof).
            Looking at the popular video games such as “Call of Duty”, “Halo”, and even the “Madden” franchise, they all have one thing in common. There is a set goal in these games, whether it be to kill all the enemies and get to the end of the level or just to beat your opponent in a game of football, there is always something that the player is trying to accomplish. Also in these games the player is interacting with the game and the “map” of the game. When looking at Dear Esther however, there is no interaction, all the player does is walk around, you cannot jump, pick things up, and when you go off path you just run into a dead end and have to return to the original path. The only thing that the player gets from Dear Esther are good views of nature giving Dear Esther an interactive story appearance. Even when comparing Dear Esther to Zork, a game where the player cannot even see what is going on in the game, it is hard to call Dear Esther a computer game. In Zork the player types commands into a box and the game spits back amusing responses. Zork gives the player an interaction, something that there is nothing of in Dear Esther. Also in Zork there is a clear goal, you are looking for treasure, eggs, and many other useful objects. In Dear Esther I was confused the entire time about the point of the story and even when the story was over I still could not figure out what I just wasted over an hour of my day on. Through the entirety of the story, “You can't help but imagine a version of this game that lets you touch and feel, picking up pebbles on the beach to throw into the sea or leafing through old books in an abandoned bothy,” stated MacDonald. This however fails to happen because there is no interactions with anything in Dear Esther.   
            Although Dear Esther is not a representation of a computer game in my view, I do believe that it can still be appealing to the player. With great graphics and views of nature Dear Esther is one of the best picture books that I have ever “read”. Overall, Dear Esther is not a depiction of a game, but as an interactive story, it does a good job in entertaining the player with great views of nature that last for over an hour.

MacDonald, Keza. "Dear Esther Review." IGN. N.p., 13 Feb. 2012. Web. 16 Oct. 2013.

Pinsof, Allistair. "Review: Dear Esther." Destructoid. N.p., 13 Feb. 2012. Web. 16 Oct. 2013.

2 comments:

Jacob Smith said...

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Adam said...

"After taking a couple steps toward the building a voice stars talking and it accompanies you on your entire journey. The voice hardly makes sense and soon I found myself not even listening to it. For the entire story your character travels on a single path and all that you as the player do is hold down the W key to walk, only to switch fingers when one gets tired." - there are several ways in which you're obviously ignoring the game's intentions here. It's not, in fact, true that you can only walk - you can also zoom in, at the least (as well as swim up) - both of these are relevant.. And if you're not even listening to the voice, it goes without saying that you won't understand anything. My point isn't that we *must* take it as a game, nor that we must think that it's good - but that you should at least try to take it on its own terms, even if you ultimately think that it fails.

Your discussion of the interaction makes sense. What I would have liked to see was an attempt at figuring out ways in which the game does offer limited interaction before dismissing it out of hand. You can, after all, move faster or slower, backtrack, zoom in or not, examine the writing on the caves and the cliff sides or not. Again, none of that is to say that you're wrong at the end of the day - but again, you don't seem to be thinking at all about the details of the game (or "game", if you prefer) before rejecting it.

At the end you categorize it as a kind of picture book. Curiously, you ignore the story entirely, but are still interested strictly in the visuals. If this is the case, some actual discussion of the visuals (presumably the most interesting ones!) could have been productive.

In short: what is missing here throughout is any engagement with the details of the game (or non-game) that you've been given.