Friday, October 11, 2013

Questions/Comments on Dear Esther & Marcuse

Post your questions/thoughts as comments to this post.  Again:  a paragraph is fine, or a couple if you feel so moved.  You are posting on a question, problem or topic of your choice.  Citing a particular passage is recommended but not required.


Sarah Ayre said...

So I played Dear Esther last night to get see how far I could get before I went away for the weekend. I have to say, that was the most confusing video game that I have ever played. I found the game EXTREMELY creepy, and I was never sure exactly what was going on. Seeing that I started out so close to the beach, the first thing I did was see how far out into the water I could go, which turned out to be a mistake. After going so far the entire screen goes black. The first time this happened I exited the game and just started over because I didn't think the screen would come back. This happened to me a couple times though when I went to places I guess you weren't supposed to go. Eventually the screen does lighten I found out. Did this happen to anyone else? I was confused as to why this even happens? It is a glitch?

I also was completely confused by the story line/end. Was I a seagull the entire time? Was I the person narrating? Or was I reading a journal that this person had written? That whole thing was unclear to me. I also found the entire game really creepy. The candles and words on the walls freaked me out and I was kind of expecting a crazy person to jump out at me at some point. Towards the end, I thought I saw a figure on top of the cliff, but when i got up there, no one was there. Was this a hint that this crazy person I saw was me? Maybe it was because I played the game late at night that i was confused, but I don't know.
Another thing that I found frustrating was the lack of control you had in the game. All i could do was walk around, and I was frustrated by the lack of interaction with the game. I couldn't pick anything up or actually study anything besides just zooming in.
Did anyone else have similar experiences?

Adam Lewis said...

I was slightly disappointed with Dear Esther, for the same price as Portal I expected it to be equally as entertaining which it wasn't.

I was frustrated by the game play a bit. Games of an older pedigree are far more explorable and less "straight line" than this one. I was especially frustrated by getting stuck on rocks that I could have easily climbed and I'm in horrible shape.

Other than that, I will agree with Sarah, the story line was unclear and I couldn't put everything together. There are chemical symbols and electrical schematics on the wall that didn't seem to connect in anyway to the narrative. I'm assuming I'm Esther tracing the island from letters of my lost love? Not sure.

Carmen Condeluci said...

If I said I understood the plot of Dear Esther outside of the obvious facts, I'd be lying. The game sets you down on the island with little to nothing to go on, other than the crazed voice-overs of the narrator, and from those first steps to the final jump, I was extremely confused. The journey seemed to be heavily symbolic, but at other times grounded in a tangible story. Displeased with my initial experience, I decided that I would go through the game again, and try to listen more intently to the monologues, and try to make sense of them. After all, the game is only about one hour long, albeit a little longer if you look around a lot.

To my complete surprise, the monologues were completely different. I immediately stopped playing after again completing the first quarter of the game, and went straight to the Dear Esther wiki to confirm my suspicions, and indeed, the game is designed to play different voice-overs semi-randomly. That being said, everyone that plays the game through only once or twice takes away a differing plot and message. Although I think this is interesting way convey the story of the game, it's also the main cause as to why we're all confused as to what really is happening. For example, the differing in what is implied happened to Esther (if we decide that she is the narrator's deceased wife) can make the symbols on the wall, like Adam said, either have great importance or be seemingly meaningless.

And Sarah, you weren't hallucinating! Ghosts are actually apparent all throughout the game, and vanish if you look directly at them. Also, for anyone that's interested, the full script of the game is available online via the wiki, and is very helpful in filling in any "holes" that your specific play-through may have had.

Ronald Rollins said...

Fortunately I got Dear Esther as part of a Humble Bundle and never had to pay full price for it. It's an interesting experience, but I'm not quite sure whether it's worth the price tag.

While I'll admit that praising a game for graphics alone is shallow, Dear Esther was a nice looking experience. It felt inspired by Half-Life 2 and STALKER, and exploring a world like this in the context of those games would be great.

As for the actual experience, I found it rather dry. You walk through the theme park at a very slow pace, sometimes catching a ghost in the corner of your eye, and then you reach the end. I really can't think of much to describe it besides that.

Abby Peters said...

I definitely enjoyed Portal much more than Dear Esther. I thought the game was painfully slow. I was also disappointed at the amount you were able to interact in the game. It would’ve added a bit to the game if you could pick things up, or jump or do anything other than walk on the designated trails. The scenery was pretty sometimes, especially in the caves, and that helped make the experience a bit less dull. The narrative was interesting at points but sometimes it felt as though it had nothing to do with the plot. Also, I am unsure of why the bible verses were written all over the rocks. Was he reading them to Esther? Or were they there to help him cope with her death?
I thought that I was the man writing the letters rather than Ester as Adam thought but I could be completely off on that.

Carl Santavicca said...

I would have to agree with Adam, that Dear Esther was disappointing, especially immediately after playing Portal, which is more of what I am accustomed to when playing video games. I think the story was a bit confusing, especially since the second time I played through the narration changed. I did notice the "ghosts" which I'm guessing are there to cause the same unstable mental condition in the player, as in the narrator. Unfortunately I am not ready to call this a true video game; I had the same interaction by holding down the "W" button for a little over an hour as I would have by pressing play on my DVD player. Aside from the lack of interaction, I thought the use of music, or lack of, in certain areas did as much for the story, if not more, than the visual effects.

Tolu Dayo said...

Dear Esther was nothing like Portal. I'm actually re-considering a lot of the complaints I had about Portal now, after playing dear Esther. For the same prices the two games are worlds apart in terms of entertainment an the ability to actually do anything. The only thing that I really liked about dear Esther was the open outdoor feel I got while playing the game. as opposed to Portal which always felt like i was stuck in a cube in a bubble. Dear Esther on the other hand had an environment that made me want to explore. The only downside to that is that the game does not give you the chance to do this.

Brianna R. Pinckney said...

Chapter six hit me personally since it talked about how people rarely question the history or knowings of science. Most people, me included just take science for what it is and don't question it because it usually is too overwhelming to comprehend. It was interesting to think about this seeing how being an engineer my world revolves around science and how I rarely question what I'm learning.

"Inasmuch as the struggle for truth "saves" reality from destruction, truth commits and engages human existence" This quite reminded me of one of the blogs we wrote about androids as metaphors. It just shows another connection between the minds of Marcuse and Dick.

Caleb Radomile said...

Dear Esther is certainly a different game from Portal. I didn't read the description before diving into it. I kept expecting something to jump out at me, something to interact with, or at least something that I could do besides walk around. I was very disappointed. The story was confusing at first. I went to other sources to get the gist of it and appreciated it more afterwards. Walking around was way too slow. I never wanted a sprint button more in my life. I guess the slow pace served as a way to get you to look around more though. If I was an artsy person, I would probably like this game more, but I'm not an artsy person. Don't get me wrong, I love when a game has an awesome story, beautiful graphics, and nice music to accompany it, but it has to have some sort of gameplay to be entertaining.

Joseph Hastings said...

Going into Dear Esther I though that the game was going to be very similar to portal, but then I played the game. This game was not fun to me and after a bit I was very annoyed and wanted to stop playing. I don't really know what the point of the game is. I was just wondering around listening to voices talk which also confused me because I had no idea what they were talking about. I have many questions after playing, who was I? Who were the voices talking? and mainly what was the point of the game?

Nicholas Flynn said...

After playing Dear Esther, and finding myself confused about the many questions the game raises, I decided to go online to read what other people had to say about the game. I came across a walkthrough that detailed most of what I had seen, but it also listed the ghost sightings, all of which I completely missed. Throughout the game, I would turn around, as quickly as I could, to see if someone was following me. But that was out of a general sense of foreboding dread that I didn’t have any real reason for (except for all the creepy details that others mentioned). The detail that I found most troubling was the pieces of paper that looked to be plastered onto rocks and on the ground. I was okay with the cave drawings and the candles; even though I had no idea where they came from either, the papers were the biggest mystery to me.
I appreciate this game, though Portal was more entertaining. In Dear Esther, even though you’re alone on a mostly deserted island, there is a pretty strict path you have to follow, even if I read now that the narrative changes each time which complicates matters. With Portal, at first I thought it was the opposite of a linear game, but now I’m thinking that there’s likely only one way to beat each level. I think it would be a worthwhile comparison to look at the linear vs. non-linear narratives of Portal and Dear Esther together to see how they encourage exploration with a limited medium.

Nikki Moriello said...

The first thing I noticed about Dear Esther is the stunning setting of the game. The beautiful visuals contrast greatly with portal, which was extremely dull, even ugly, as we discussed in class. Also, Dear Esther does not have any clear goal or objective that I could figure out from playing it. Also, there doesn't seem to be a threat. In probably all of the video games that I've played, there has been some sort of threat to the player. In Dear Esther, there doesn't seem to be one. In Portal, there are several ways you can easily die while trying to complete your mission. You kind of have to try to die in Dear Esther. Essentially, Portal and Dear Esther are opposites because Portal has a clear objective with directions and takes place in a factory-like industrial setting. On the other hand, Dear Esther has no clear objective, no directions, and takes place in a really natural, beautifully melancholy sort-of place.
I found the lack of direction and mostly any form of mission or objective to be confusing. I sort of felt like I was waiting to find something that would alter my course of action or force me to do something, but nothing really ever came. I kind of just wandered until I think I reached the end of the game. I don't actually know if it was the end.
Overall, the game struck me as a bit creepy, too. The voiceover that kept popping up at random times seemed to allude to a car crash of some sort, but there wasn't really anything concrete to go off of because we have no idea if the person speaking is us or someone else. Everything was dark and dreary and at the end of the game, we jump off a cliff. Pretty morbid.
Maybe the point of the game is to explore it and ponder the meaning of life or something. I kind of got that feel from it.

Jason Wald said...

Comparing this game to Portal is much like comparing a novel to a comic book/graphic novel - yeah they both tell a story and can be considered 'books', we interact with them in vastly different ways. Similarly, this is not as much of a game as it is an interactive experience. My problem then comes down to the fact that I did not find this to be a particularly interesting experience. The game is much too slow paced for me to even consider a second walkthrough, so I'm glad the entire script is posted online.
Maybe I'm missing something but I found the game to be quite pretentious and so I am looking forward to the discussion on this game, mostly because I would love to get some other opinions on it.