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Thread: So I played Dear Esther...
19-03-2012, 01:11 AM #41
Your definitions don't actually prove Dear Esther is a game, because they don't define what a game is. Here, let me do your job for you from Dictionary.com:
noun1.an amusement or pastime: children's games.
2.the material or equipment used in playing certain games: a store selling toys and games.
3.a competitive activity involving skill, chance, or enduranceon the part of two or more persons who play according to aset of rules, usually for their own amusement or for that ofspectators.
4.a single occasion of such an activity, or a definite portion ofone: the final game of the season; a rubber of three games atbridge.
5.the number of points required to win a game.
19-03-2012, 01:18 AM #42
Cards on the table, here's my ultra-inclusive definition of a game: a formal system that you can affect by interacting with.
Now Dear Esther, it's splitting people because of the nature of the interaction available.
Seems some people feel about it like they would about a photographer moving around the edge of a football pitch taking photos of the action. No way is he playing right? It's demeaning to the real players to grant him that status.
Because? The action is going to turn out the same way with or without him. He's not really affecting anything.
Same with Dear Esther. You the player don't really change any outcomes.
But I think what other people feel is this, that the "object being affected" is you, the player. And some people are noticing hey, if I played it a different way to how I did, if I didn't explore, or I skipped this or that bit, I would have ended up responding differently. I woudn't have been moved the way I was.
And so, minimal as it is, that does make it a game to them. The player, through using the system itself, is influencing the result.
And I can understand wanting to refuse that, and say no, the player can't be a part of the formal system that gets affected, that's the difference between Dear Esther and a "real" game.
But to be honest I can't conceive of a game that doesn't insist on being a pre-scripted "trick" that depends on the player's response for acquiring its value. And the more I think about it, the more I don't want to conceive of such a game.
19-03-2012, 01:56 AM #43
I can (and will) post the definitions of "game" for those arguing about the subject:
an amusement or pastime: children's games.
activity engaged in for diversion or amusement
an entertaining activity or sport, especially one played by children, or the equipment needed for such an activity
But who's better to define if Dear Esther is a game than the guys who created it? I'm not going to say it's a game because it was made using an engine. People are using UDK for architectural presentations, either interactive or video, so that proves that something made with an engine is not a game. But...
As a_bullet stated, it started as a mod using Source. Now let me add they used a gaming website to post it (IndieDB). To them, Dear Esther must be a game.
They got Indie Fund to back the commercial release. I don't know who approached who, so I'll just assume thechineseroom contacted Indie Fund first. Indie Fund only backs games, so it must be a game.
From thechineseroom's official website:
thechineseroom is an independent game studio based in Brighton, UK
We make first person games. These include the cult indie hit Dear Esther. We are currently developing two new games: Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, and Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs. Both are due this year.
Dear Esther joined the IGF competition. Everybody knows that joining the IGF means the developer submitted their games, because IGF never contacts developers saying "hey, maybe you know who we are, can you submit your game?" So, if thechineseroom submitted DE to a gaming contest, they must think it's a game.
It's sold on Steam, a marketplace for games.
It was aimed to gamers, not people into "digital comics" or "interactive comics" or "film" and "novels."
thechineseroom knows and openly states Dear Esther is a game, but either a game is not the right medium to present this story, or the developers could've spent more time designing the game. The thing is DE fanboys have problems thinking that there may be room for improvement for this game because consider it to be perfect (I did read some reviews after writing my blog, and I found funny how many people ranted at poor reviews, saying the reviewer was "stupid" because he didn't get how brilliant the game actually was).
As for me, I see they are working on the next Amnesia game and I can't help to wonder of this new Amnesia game will be about holding W during 2 hours while you "see scary stuff" and board circuits on walls. If I wanted that, I'd ride one one of those Universal Studios things carrying a keyboard with me so I can hold the W key all that time. Maybe this last idea is a little bit too much, but I think some indies are too focused on "making their art" that they forget "games are games" even if all you have to do is walk."So dark le con of man"
19-03-2012, 02:14 AM #44
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Would I get anything from playing Dear Esther or should I watch a walkthrough? Is there a difference in this case?
Query/SPOILER < doubtful?
Why does the torch beam have a smilie? Do I need to buy the game(?) to find out? @1:09 - 2:09
Last edited by Heister; 19-03-2012 at 02:35 AM.
19-03-2012, 02:25 AM #45
It's pretty much the same considerations you'd have to give any other question of "should I play it or watch a let's play?"
19-03-2012, 02:44 AM #46
Originally Posted by Heister
This I think is the most damning aspect of Dear Esther and all of its kind. If you watch a video (that is entirely non-interactive) which walks through the "game", you don't lose much from "playing the game". A walkthrough of something like MW3, which is still highly linear and filled with cutscenes that play out without your intervention, does lose something because the player isn't playing any of the combat sequences, misses out entirely on the challenges posed by those sequences, and doesn't have a chance to experience any of that. The experience does change in that case. In a walkthrough of Dear Esther though you don't lose anything, everything plays out the same, it's just that someone else is doing all the moving for you. If you just sat there and watched the whole thing while the engine moved you along without input you'd get essentially the same experience.
Dear Esther comes closer than others due to the slightly randomised nature but at the end of the day as people have already admitted you're just triggering sequences, and doing nothing outside of that. As Heister said, watching it is pretty much the same as playing it. Nothing you do really has any impact on the "game" at all. It's an interactive art sequence. That doesn't make it bad. That doesn't make it inferior to games. That doesn't make it any less important. But it does distinguish it from a game, and like I said, when taken as not being a game you can praise it for its artistic merit. But taken as a game it's a bad game because it has no gameplay.
Interestingly Heavy Rain on the PS3 walks a fine line too, though it might lean more towards "game" since the "player's" actions do have an impact on how the story plays out, and it does present some challenges to the player.
19-03-2012, 03:42 AM #47
But you're just arguing degrees here; It's not challenging enough to be a game, your actions don't affect the experience enough to be a game. I don't think that's a useful way to define something unless you can specify that threshold.
It's also really weird that we'd construct more rigid rules for what counts as a game in video games than we would a game in real life. I worked as a preschool teacher for a couple of years and played and watched others play lots of games every day and a lot of them would seem to fail your criteria for what a game is. I'd much rather have an inclusive than an exclusive view of what games are.
19-03-2012, 04:02 AM #48
What you say about marketing strategy is somewhat of what I mean when I say they decide to call it "a game," "an interactive experience," "an interactive story" based on the conversation. Seen like that, i'd be inclined to think DE suffers from identity crisis.
"Deep" games are not something new. Personally I find the (old) Silent Hill games deeper than modern "art games" even if some may see them as "games about killing monsters." Again, as you say, it's like some marketing strategy to appeal to some people, or proving "what else" games can be, or whatever. But I can't help to think all this is some sort of obsession to show that games are art (I may be wrong, but again this is just the impression I get).
But for whatever reason, the developer categorizes DE as a game, even if the level of interactivity is almost zero.
I've said this before, I do believe Dear Esther is a good experiment. I do hope the guys at thechineseroom take the time to gather what people say about it (good or bad) and use that input for their next games and don't end up thinking their product is perfect because it repaid the Indie Fund investment in a few hours (I think?). I'd certainly hate to see the next Amnesia game play (or "unplay"?) like Dear Esther."So dark le con of man"
19-03-2012, 04:04 AM #49
19-03-2012, 05:30 AM #50
Again the reason why I think the distinction is important here is because if you decide to accurately assess things like Dear Esther as games, then they must score low because their gameplay is non-existent, or to be overly generous it's minimal. As a piece of interactive art though there's zero expectation for gameplay and thus it can be assessed on its artistic merits alone. And interestingly that's exactly what people do when they praise Dear Esther. Nobody talks about the AWESOME WALKING ACTION or anything like that.
In fact it can work to the piece's detriment in some cases. Take The Path for example. When each girl finally gets to Grandma's House, they have to walk up the path to get to the front door... which takes about fifty thousand years because the character's walking speed is absolutely glacial for no apparent reason. If it was shown as a short movie, perhaps condensed, it might be poignant. As part of a 'game' it's tedious, tiresome, and frustrating.
It doesn't apply specifically to sports, though sports clearly count as games.
An interactive story or "experience" (as much as I'm tempted to label that as being 'hipster art terminology') is a more accurate description though. Actually that's pretty much what I'd call it.
19-03-2012, 07:10 AM #51
19-03-2012, 07:44 AM #52
If you're prepared to accept that playing with a balloon turns into a game when you apply proper structure to it, then you can accept that a person can logically view Dear Esther as not being a game because it lacks these elements. The argument for it being a game basically boils down to "Well, some people have called it a game and it's marketed as a game, and yeah I want it to be a game." I can market a dog as a cat but it's still a dog on objective analysis.
19-03-2012, 10:45 AM #53
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This I think is the most damning aspect of Dear Esther and all of its kind. If you watch a video (that is entirely non-interactive) which walks through the "game", you don't lose much from "playing the game".
19-03-2012, 11:39 AM #54
19-03-2012, 12:55 PM #55
As for Dear Esther not having gameplay, I'll direct you back to my post on page 2 which has a couple of direct questions regarding exactly that.
I was referring specifically to the criteria you mentioned earlier: Goals, interactivity, challenge, rules. To take an easy example: I have a dice and a friend, we take turns rolling the dice and whoever gets the highest number wins. So there's a goal, interactivity and rules but there's no challenge to overcome since the outcome is random and I can't influence it. Next up we play a game where we pretend to be frogs. There's challenge (being a frog isn't easy), interactivity and rules but no set goal beyond entertaining ourselves.
Also, I haven't made any arguments relating to what people call it or how it's marketed, that's a stupid way to define what something is. I've given concrete examples relating to the criteria you've set for it as well as described my own views on what a game is.
19-03-2012, 01:16 PM #56
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19-03-2012, 03:28 PM #57
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Game engine: Source
Title: Pointless/Unchallenged/Draw The Line
Game starts and everything is black. Only visible things are a winding line from your position to a red light in the distance.
Some guy talks, triggered at certain points along the line. He recites parts of The Long and Winding Road by The Beatles.
Controls - W and mouse.
Would that concept count as a game? I'll use the Source engine, I'll sell it on Steam and I'll charge £10 for it.
Please don't answer yes.
Scratch that. If there's enough interest...
Concept art -
Last edited by Heister; 19-03-2012 at 03:56 PM.
19-03-2012, 03:40 PM #58
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Yes, by some definitions. It's very different to what we'd traditionally consider a game to be, but y'know, it's the closest word we have right now. Also I'd argue Dear Esther and this have more in common with Call of Duty than Call of Duty has in common with Ludo or Chess.
The fact that it's shit doesn't enter into it. The DaVinci Code is still a book and JedWood still make music.
And replacing it with a video of someone playing it would still fundamentally change the experience, in my opinion.
19-03-2012, 05:26 PM #59
19-03-2012, 09:31 PM #60
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First Person Strollers are going to be the next big thing in gaming. I can see it now. Railworks amount of dlc. The Lake District. Snowdon. The Cairngorms pack. Think of the monetary possibilities. Want to enter that range over yonder? Buy a stile.
If the player has a backpack with some survival equipment and the game has some randomized weather conditions...
Last edited by Heister; 19-03-2012 at 09:58 PM.