Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
View All     RSS
October 25, 2014
arrowPress Releases
October 25, 2014
PR Newswire
View All
View All     Submit Event

If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM Tech sites:

On Dear Esther
by E McNeill on 02/15/12 08:24:00 am   Expert Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


I finished Dear Esther a couple of minutes before writing this, having played straight through, and I found myself itching to talk about it. Dear Esther is the second game to come out of the venerable Indie Fund, which was reason enough for me to play it. It's unlikely that the game could have been made without this sort of progressive backing. It's just too... different. And that's the very reason why I want other game designers to experience it too.

Dear Esther is not a happy game. It begins in mystery and curiosity, progresses to ambiguity, and eventually descends into obscurity and madness. Occasionally, a pinch of horror is thrown in for spice. I don't mean to say that any of this is bad; the game (if, indeed, you can call it a game) knows exactly what it is, and it has an odd sort of coherence in its refusal to provide clarity.

The gameplay consists of a mostly linear tour of a remote island in the Hebrides, with a few opportunities for independent exploration or investigation. The journey that takes place in your head will be far less straightforward. As you explore, you hear snippets of letters, erudite and esoteric, written to a woman named Esther. Other names are mentioned, interweaving with bits of backstory, history, and allusions. Who is the speaker? Who are you? Who made the island... like this? Some answers present themselves, but never one at a time, and never with confirmation. You must fend for yourself in making sense of it, and this made me feel vulnerable in a way I rarely experience. Small, haunting details in the game world exacerbated this feeling. At times, I was certain that the game was deliberately messing with my mind. (Or was that just my own echoing anxiety?) Yet at the end I did not feel frustrated but instead satisfied, saddened, and, appropriately, at peace with the game's narrative (or at least my own interpretation of it).

If it's not obvious, this description is meant as high praise. But, of course, I'm a certain type of gamer, and Dear Esther has (predictably) polarized the gaming community already in its reviews. To appreciate it, you should approach it as you would any abstract artwork. Don't approach it with demands; it will not accomodate you. Take it for what it is, and you might find value in it, as I did.

Related Jobs

Digital Extremes
Digital Extremes — London, Ontario, Canada

Sound Designer
Disruptor Beam, Inc.
Disruptor Beam, Inc. — Framingham, Massachusetts, United States

Lead 3D Artist
Red 5 Studios
Red 5 Studios — Orange County, California, United States

Graphics Programmer
Red 5 Studios
Red 5 Studios — Orange County, California, United States

Gameplay Programmer


Jonathan Jennings
profile image
Wow thank you , i found this to be a very interesting insight. a friend of mine showed me the dear esther trailer and it looked quite promising . From a story telling perspective it sounds a surprising amount like Limbo which never gave concrete details on who you are, what happened to the sister you are saving or where you are but gave you just enough story for your mind to fill in the blanks. I look forward to picking this title up and thans again!