Gone Home and The Reality Effect

Gone Home.

Gone Home. This was The Fullbright Company’s famed “Story Exploration Video Game,” 1)http://thefullbrightcompany.com/gonehome/ a game that I had been aching to witness, to dissect, and to analyse.

This, I already knew, were a Critic’s Kinda Game – one that would absolutely speak both to my ludological and narratological interests… only, the increasingly massive amount of criticism (reviews, articles, critiques, and commentaries) had begun to pile and fill up my Pocket feed, my RSS subs, and my Twitter timeline; first, to the point of my hesitation, then, to mild discomfort, and finally to a kind of destitution.

I really did feel, for a moment, ashamed of not having tackled the popular game on this website. We seemed like such a good match.

I guess you could say that I think we both owe it to each other.

Minor spoilers below.


References   [ + ]

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Dear Esther Review

2008‘s Dear Esther, a Source modification developed by thechineseroom, originally a research project group at the University of Portsmouth, was perhaps the most singular game release of that year. In a sense, its arrival brought with it some degree of legitimacy to modifications with narrative and writing in mind.

Encouraged by the game’s overwhelmingly positive reception and feedback, and the initiative of esteemed level designer Robert Briscoe, writer and designer Dan Pinchbeck set out to remake the original, which has now been released on Steam. At the end of 2011, Dear Esther’s popularity and anticipation had reached a deserved fever pitch due to Briscoe’s amazing visual work, and indeed, just a mere six hours after release, the developers had already successfully recouped their investment from the Indie Fund.

Yet here I stand, a review copy in hand, feeling a puzzling hesitance over reopening the metaphorical wounds inflicted by the original. Certainly, I had nothing short of thrusted the ghostly modification upon all my videogaming friends, toting its expert writing and unrivalled narrative exposition. Nabeel Burney wrote about the specifics of the mod here on the Slowdown.

Like Nabeel, I too enjoyed – if that be the word (probably not) – the game immensely. That was not the problem.


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Dear Esther

Note: A review of the Dear Esther 2012 remake can be read right here!

You find yourself standing on a pier, jutting out from a silent shore with only a small house in sight, a rocky mountain looming behind in the mist. You appear to be on an island, deadly quiet and devoid of life except for a lone seagull fleeing at the sound of your step. Venturing forth into the house you discover an abandoned shack with only boxes lying about, and on the walls a curious set of chalked symbols. Setting off on the path behind the house you make your way up the mountain in an attempt to make sense of this desolate place.

Dear Esther,
the gulls do not land here anymore. I’ve noticed that this year they seem to shun the place. Maybe it’s the depletion of the fishing stock driving them away. Perhaps it’s me.

Dear Esther is an interactive first-person adventure. Based on the Source engine popularised by Half-Life 2, it is a free mod that requires the game to run. Created by British games researcher Dan Pinchbeck under the development moniker thechineseroom, the mod is described as an interactive narrative that “puts traditional game technologies to new use”. Essentially the player has one action available to them, and that is to move around and explore the island. The narrative arrives in the form of the atmospheric visuals and sound, and short spoken fragments of story that are triggered at various spots on your journey. The narrator reads out extracts from a letter addressed to someone called Esther, and relates his attempts to follow in the footsteps of a man arriving to the island before him. Throughout his monologue he alludes to his experiences as well as those of other characters, all seemingly related in some way. The accounts sometimes appear literal but at other times feel more metaphorical and nebulous in their meaning.

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