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Tim Schafer

Dear Esther?

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I don't know why moving through a world and being told a story can be "not enough interaction" when we constantly entertain ourselves with completely non-interactive entertainment in the form of movies and TV series without complaining.

Yes, but even in movies and TV they stage the illusion of things happening. Very few people would want to watch a movie of a camera looking out a car window for two hours. Even if you put in narration every few minutes, what is the point.

I can make my own experience of not doing anything, and it will be a hell of a lot nicer because I can just go lay on some grass or a hammock or something and daydream.

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I loved every second i've experienced it. sure on a gameplay point of view it's pretty awful, but i honestly did not care about it. The atmosphere, the story and the music were simply amazing.

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Enjoying Dear Esther seems to completely rely on what you were expecting to get out of it.

I'm a book person. I love narratives. When I really enjoy a game world (Half Life, New Vegas, Metro 2033), I love to check out the little things, the detail in the environment and think about how that ties into the story. I'm probably the ideal consumer for Dear Esther.

That said, when I'm running around a game world checking things out, 'taking it at my own pace', I like the option to 'take it at my own pace'. This means the choice to go faster as well. Good lord, I don't know what you're trying to simulate with that kind of move speed, but if you're going to have it please make it so I don't have to walk as much. The environment's amazing, and I appreciate it, but don't force me to stay in it longer than I feel I need to.

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One good thing Dear Esther does, that I think is rapidly becoming a lost art, is that it only tells you about 85% of the story. It deliberately leaves gaps in the story for you to fill in with your imagination. A lot of story media nowadays is obsessed with explaining every tiny detail of the story. I know some people want everything to be explained but I prefer the author to let me read between the lines every now and then.

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I don't know why moving through a world and being told a story can be "not enough interaction" when we constantly entertain ourselves with completely non-interactive entertainment in the form of movies and TV series without complaining.

There seems to be something about interactive media where consumers expect to be constantly challenged and simulated, whereas I found Dear Esther to be a welcome reprieve from those conventions and simply let myself enjoy the story, even with its slow pacing. For me, it was the suspension of disbelief that I was able to achieve during the time I "played" it, which made it special. Not many environments are fully realized and believable enough to give me that feeling, but Dear Esther did and I hope more people have the courage to make these sorts of experiences in the future.

Agreed. I think in the not-too-distant future all these debates about what can or can't be classed as a game and what is or isn't interactive enough will start looking old-fashioned.

I'm not sure what people are worried about. Is it that they're concerned that if there are these types of games, it'll harm the sorts of games they enjoy? No evidence of that, if anything, more kinds of game come out now than ever. There's room for every niche thanks to the internet, and Dear Esther can sit aside, say, Super Meat Boy with neither one jostling for space with the other.

Is it just the word 'game' that sets up the expectation? Well, not all words keep their original meaning and I don't see why we should be beholden to their dictionary definitions instead of allowing the medium to grow in whatever directions it will. And I deliberately use the plural - gaming doesn't have to just be one thing.

The best thing I heard a developer say recently is that 'games don't have to be anything, except everything.' Games should be harder, easier, more narrative driven, less narrative driven, very interactive, only interactive in a limited way, easy to understand and obtuse. The more things games are the better for the medium, so my definition of a video game would simply be that it's an interactive, computer-controlled medium for conveying creative ideas or engaging for the purposes of entertainment. Within those boundaries, go nuts, developers.

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If you're looking at these more experimental takes on the adventure genre then, as someone else mentioned, To The Moon is well worth playing through.

Like Dear Esther, its arguable whether it qualifies as an actual game, but while it lacks that games stunning environment art, I think it's a far more compelling experience. Given the direction you're currently looking at taking DFA with the young boy and girl, it might also make for quite a useful reference.

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Just thought i'd let folks know, Steam is selling Dear Esther for 5 dollars. The deal expires Thursday at 4 PM PDT.

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I actually don't think the environments in Dear Esther were that good either, but I'm probably biased by the 3D textures that always look horrible when I look them up close. The story also was not enjoyable enough to hold my attention. If you want to go for interactive stories, I definitely echo all the people reccomending To The Moon instead; touching, original, with attention to details and with a perfect balancement of themes and pacing.

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If I bought a short story on audiobook and drove to the nearest island and took a hike while listening to it, it would all cost me much more then $10. I think Dear Esther was worth the price :)

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