Last year I got introduced to a “Game” which I thought, well bluntly, was NOT A GAME! My opinion was quickly escalated to heated discussion with my friends who concluded that my definition of what a “Game” is was outdated and this was a new way to play. Definitions do change with time and integrate new way to play. My problem with this “Game”, as per all definition, it is a Game; As per the same definition, it is a poor game and should be considered a poor use of the available medium.
I am of course talking about Dear Esther, a “Game” created by a “Game Researcher” to be “Anti-game” which is to say, taking typical gaming mechanics and twisting them to tell a story. The problem with that is that, by removing those game elements, it is no longer a “Game”… it is interactive storytelling medium, like a “Pick your own Adventure Book”… though this is not the best example of one as you have very little control over the story and the only decision you really have is to follow the path or turn it off!
There are elements taken from games such as adaptive storytelling, where if you take a different turn, you get a different part of the story. However, the ending is always the same, the path you take my lead you a different path than one you took on a previous playthrough but they all lead the same way! You are meant to play this title a few times to get the whole story but after the first play through, I saw no reason to replay it. Nothing changes apart from story you are told as narration, which by the way, can be read online!!
As a sandbox, it is also broken. I was able to escape the confines of the path and broke the engine. I also jumped whole story points. The point is to tell a story but if I can break it by taking a shortcut over a cliff, I am simply ripping pages from the script!
If this is the future for the gaming, I am glad to have kept my games from the 90’s!!
JoeIce Box Quotes –
“Should not be seen as the future of games But perhaps possible future for storytelling.”
“Dear Esther is to games, as 3D is to Movies; Should have stayed in the 80’s!”
“Elements are true and tested, however are poorly executed”
Post written October 2012