Thursday, February 27, 2014

The ART of Dear Esther

            Growing up, one the enjoyable and more interesting things to do with your friends is play video games.  It can be anytime of the day there would always be an opportunity to play because you didn’t have to depend on the weather or anything epic happening like you would from playing outside with the other kids.  The reason everyone played video games is because they were not only fun, but can always capture your attention.  From playing games that involved shooting guns, fighting monsters, and racing cars just to name a few, would continuously seem to lock your eyes to the television screen of virtual world as if you were physically in the game yourself.  When thinking about the video game Dear Esther, none of these qualities rarely come to mind.  Not that it’s such a bad example of a video game, but that I don’t even see it as “being called” a video game in the first place.

            The main overall reason I feel as though Dear Esther isn’t a video game is because by playing it there is no objective on what is needed to be accomplished.  You mainly walk around an island by yourself while listening to a series of voiced-over letter fragments to a woman who is not around anymore that goes by the name of Esther.  You would think that this game would at least be made up to be some kind of puzzle or mystery in finding clues but it isn’t like that.  As creepy of a setting the game is being played in you would expect your character would have a gun and shoot something in harm’s way that pops out at you like most game’s but that isn’t what this game is about.  You wander from place to place as if you’re on a journey and hoping to get to the next destination that you’re supposed to be at. 

The game also doesn’t have any characters.  It states how there are character named Donnelly, Paul, and Jakobson but they are all unseen throughout the video game.  I don’t see why they can’t be seen which gives me another reason why this is called a video game.  Most video games I know of have characters that you can even choose from to make games much more fun.  One thing I will point out is the graphics that are being seen while playing this game.  Throughout the journey through the island I noticed how beautiful the scenery played out with the clouds being a certain color in the sky to the calm waters that settled about just off of land.  These illustrations were crisp and were probably the only thing that kept me into enjoying the game.  These are examples why I recall Dear Esther as being art and not a game.

            When I think of a video game I can still get the idea of Zork.  Even though there wasn’t much creativity being made into it, this game still had an objective.  While you’re still adventuring through land the one thing that stands out is that you still have a goal.  That goal was to return from the Underground Empire alive with treasures while still having to face obstacles such as grues, zorkmids, and many novel creatures.  Even though I didn’t quite like how Zork was played, I still look at that as an idea of what you’re supposed to look for in a game.

            Overall, from my experience of playing Dear Esther I must say that it was an optimistic but a more dreary type of game.  A lot of people may give it a thumbs up and so will I, but that would have to go towards the “art” of Dear Esther and not from it being a “game.”


Becca Garges said...


I like how you begin with our generation's perception of video games. It makes your piece relevant and helps to establish how many people define video games. From the title of your blog entry, I was expecting it to be about Dear Esther as a piece of art. However, only at the very end of your essay do you begin to explain why you think Dear Esther is art. You explain a bit about what you think the game lacks in regards to fitting the traditional definition of a video game, but you don't go very in depth here. What about the reviews of the video game? Do you agree with them or think they are wrong?

Be careful with the wording of your sentences. Sometimes I was confused by your sentence structure. For example, you say the game doesn't have any characters, but then you list the characters in the next sentence.

If you want to revise this essay, I would definitely go more in depth about why you think Dear Esther ISN'T a video game and especially go more in depth about why you think it IS art. Your reference to Zork is a great example, and you could explore the differences between Zork and Dear Esther to further your argument.


Adam said...

Becca's comments are good, so first let me say that I agree with them, but won't repeat them. I'll extend them a little, though, by giving a variant on some of her closing comments. At some point, we need to get a sense of your interests and your true definition. Video games require objectives - what does art require? Does art exclude having objectives? Is it possible for it to be both a video game *and* art?

In reality, you ignore most of the prompt. You answer the question (although only partially, as Becca points out), but you don't orient yourself to the question through the reviewers, which was part of the prompt. Doing so would have helped stop you from begin as vague and directionless as you seem through most of this - ironic, given that your leading critique of Dear Esther is the lack of clear objectives. What, then, is *your* objective?