Esther In The Headlights: Dear Esteban

A windmill. But what is wind? And what does utilitarianism have to do with the price of oatcakes?

This is the very first time that you have been here before. The whales are watching you. They know what you did. What did you do? Ask the whales but they won’t tell you because they are silent. Mysteriously silent. You probably killed someone and it might have been an accident but there’s almost definitely blood on your hands or lipstick on your collar, or a ghost in your shoe. The hills have the answers but they’re as quiet as the whales. Only the wind has a voice and it whispers so quietly that all you can make out is a name. Esteban. Download Dear Esteban to learn the truth about your past and that girl with the eighties hair. It’s free.

Guess which game Dear Esteban parodies? It’ll take five minutes out of your day and there’s only a 12% chance that you’ll regret sacrificing them to its odd charms.

Fuck This Jam ran from November 9th through to the 17th and asked developers to make games in genres that they hated. The manifesto admirably states: “Through utter ignorance for conventions and hate for the established rules of a genre, beautiful things will happen.” There might well be some beauties among the entries, but mischievous and amusing things happened as well.

I like quiet contemplation, I really do, but I’ve always thought Dear Esther would be improved if something happened. Who would have thought that the appearance of a soaring sky-whale would do the trick? I wish Esteban was a total conversion of the original rather than an independent entity, a beautifully weird mod that added more animated nonsense to that bleak island than a volume of Lear.

The developers have this to say:

We love Dear Esther. Dear Esteban was made in good fun & parody. Dear Esteban is not so much ‘Fuck This’. It’s more a love letter to Dear Esther from the weird kid who doesn’t have a shot but you kind of feel bad for.

It doesn’t seem like anything more than a joke at first, strings of nonsense draped across the sky like the drool on a mad dog’s jowls. You might argue that brevity prevents Esteban from offering any intricate desconstruction or insight into the narrated stroll genre, but I reckon you’d be missing the point. Sometimes, especially in the face of a thing that seems so defiantly serious about itself, a custard pie can be an invaluable device for everybody involved.

And yet, despite how daft it all is, I swear there may be some dark meaning in the voiceover. Perhaps that’s the punchline. Some of us find meaning in words and sights just as we find faces in clouds. Now, does anyone have a monochrome indie art game called Pareidolia for me to rave about?



  1. matthias_zarzecki says:

    It’s a Skorca! :P

  2. kikito says:

    I don’t feel like installing and playing through this. Is there a youtube playthrough, so I can fast-forward to the interesting bits?

    • zain3000 says:

      The download is about 30megs and it takes no longer than five minutes to “stroll” from beginning to end. Give it a shot. I’d say you’re way better off experiencing this weird little gem first-hand.

  3. Heliocentric says:

    It ends at the windmill without ending right?

    • Morph says:

      yeah… the joke might have had more impact if the game ended then.

  4. LTK says:

    The first paragraph becomes a lot better if you read it in the voice of Dear Esther’s narrator.

    • Fitzmogwai says:

      Here you go:

      link to

      • mrwonko says:

        Have an imaginary thumbs up. :)

      • Gap Gen says:

        Utterly amazing.

      • Premium User Badge

        Adam Smith says:

        This has made my day.

      • Fitzmogwai says:

        Glad you liked it :)

        • Syra says:

          That’s awesome how did you manage that O_o

          • Fitzmogwai says:

            Well, I work as a voice artist, and I have a small home studio. I recorded the vocal take, downloaded the Dear Esther soundtrack from ModDB where it’s available for free, and mixed and rendered the final file using Reaper. Took about 5 minutes, which is why it’s not as polished as it could be :)

          • Syra says:

            Bravo sir, it was so good I thought it was the original guy! I should hire you to narrate all the things.

          • Ragnar says:

            That is fantastic!

            You should totally work with the Esteban dev to get that in the game. :)

      • cronach says:


      • The Random One says:

        All the times someone has been told that they win an internet, they’ll all have to give it back, because you just won all of them forever.

        Uh, there might be some legal and processing fees

      • xdiesp says:

        dude you ROCK, this has easily more humour than the game parody itself :D

  5. Gap Gen says:

    As for the greatest good for the greatest number of oatcakes, it really depends on how one Mills the oats. Perhaps they would also be more palatable if you Bentham in half.

  6. Inigo says:

    Stanley tried to ignore the giant whale at it sailed overhea- oh wait, wrong game.

  7. Mctittles says:

    I haven’t played Dear Esther. Is there anything to that game, or would I get just as much enjoyment loading up an island in the Arma II editor and walking around?

    • Naum says:

      That very much depends on what you want from your game. If you like walking around a beautiful island, seeing strange and mysterious places and being told a sad story in the vaguest possible way via environments and narration, it might be for you. If, on the other hand, you want to actually do something with the world or have a non-linear environment to explore, then don’t play this game.

      I personally found the combination of music, location and narrative to be extremely atmospheric, and the levels provided just enough freedom to let me forgive Dear Esther’s inherently on-rails structure. However, I can’t really pinpoint why exactly the game impressed me as much as it did, so it’s hard to give any substantial advice on the matter.

    • Gap Gen says:

      It’s more of a short story audiobook where you move forward between chapters by walking across an island. So if you don’t like listening to short stories, then sure, load up ArmA and walk around a bit. It’s a nice island, though.

      • xdiesp says:

        Don’t call dear esther an audiobook, for the simple reason it’s not honest. You aren’t calling a videogame a movie where you also type on the keyboard a bit. Exploring the island and putting together what the story is, with that masterful mapping and narration, is an experience far beyond useless GUIs and jump buttons and dialogue trees. Not all games can be like that obviously, but don’t diss on one which tries it and you’re there scolding it like everyone has to agree to the same trite models.

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