Should Dear Esther be considered a "game"?
Yes
42.9% (45)
42.9% (45)
No
57.1% (60)
57.1% (60)
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Poll: Dear Esther- Should it be considered a game?

A discussion thread about whether or not Dear Esther should be considered a game, or something or a different title. Now, what this is not about is whether or not it's good or bad. So, I'll start by giving my opinion.

Do I think Dear Esther should be considered a game? No, not at all. I think at the very most, it is an "interactive poem", and that's really stretching the meaning of "interactive". The definition for a game is: "A form of play or sport, esp. a competitive one played according to rules and decided by skill, strength, or luck". And I believe that Dear Esther lacks the rules, and requirements of skill or luck.

Dear Esther has one point where the story is interactive, ergo game. (IMO). Pretentious game, but game nonetheless.

What I wanna know is how come Dear Esther can be considered a game and art and amazing and all the other good things I've heard, but then Asuras Wrath has to take shit from people for "not having enough" gameplay?

OT: I'd consider Dear Esther to be more like an interactive audio book rather than a game.

I consider it to be more of an interactive arts gallery.

anthony87:
What I wanna know is how come Dear Esther can be considered a game and art and amazing and all the other good things I've heard, but then Asuras Wrath has to take shit from people for "not having enough" gameplay?

OT: I'd consider Dear Esther to be more like an interactive audio book rather than a game.

I see the hypocrisy as well, though I think that stems more from the fact that Asura's Wrath is a full price retail release and Dear Esther is only $10. Cheaper than a Movie, similar length.

anthony87:
What I wanna know is how come Dear Esther can be considered a game and art and amazing and all the other good things I've heard, but then Asuras Wrath has to take shit from people for "not having enough" gameplay?

OT: I'd consider Dear Esther to be more like an interactive audio book rather than a game.

Well partly because people expected Asura's Wrath to be a traditional, God of War style game. Kill lots of enemies, fight huge bosses that end with a quick time, and so forth. Also, I'd argue too many quick time events, which doesn't really add to the experience as a whole, and are just there to keep you busy during the cutscenes.

Whereas Dear Esther, as an indie game, is expected to be at least a little artsy so it's no problem if it's all artsy.

Baron_BJ:
I see the hypocrisy as well, though I think that stems more from the fact that Asura's Wrath is a full price retail release and Dear Esther is only $10. Cheaper than a Movie, similar length.

Actually Asura's Wrath is presented as a series of episodes, so it's more like a box set for a season of a television series. Besides, any full priced game is going to give you way more content, in terms of gameplay time vs. running time, than movie.

Dear Esther is an interactive book, it's interesting, but it's hardly a game.

Now Journey?

If there was ever a game that defined the 'art game' it would be Journey

Absolute brilliance.

Daystar Clarion:
Now Journey?

If there was ever a game that defined the 'art game' it would be Journey

Absolute brilliance.

Yeah, man, your Journey thread is making me really wish I owned a PS3.

Kahunaburger:

Daystar Clarion:
Now Journey?

If there was ever a game that defined the 'art game' it would be Journey

Absolute brilliance.

Yeah, man, your Journey thread is making me really wish I owned a PS3.

I'm not saying you should buy a PS3 for Journey.

I'm saying you will buy a PS3 for Journey.

Assuming direct control!

I wouldn't personally describe anything without an objective as a game... you could argue that the objective is getting to the end, but that is questionable!

It's an incredibly linear game, but a game nonetheless.

In my opinion, "game" is actually a terrible name for most video games, apart from the ones that are actually like games (Pong, Space invaders, Bit.Trip, that sort of thing). But for whatever reason, it's the name we've got, and Dear Esther fits it pretty much as well as many other so called "games".

Daystar Clarion:
Dear Esther is an interactive book, it's interesting, but it's hardly a game.

Now Journey?

If there was ever a game that defined the 'art game' it would be Journey

Absolute brilliance.

Dammit man STOP MAKING ME WANT TO GET THAT GAME!!!

Wait...no. Actually, persuade me more!

Kahunaburger:
Dear Esther has one point where the story is interactive, ergo game. (IMO). Pretentious game, but game nonetheless.

Where?

OT: No. I'd call it a visual novel.

Vrach:

Kahunaburger:
Dear Esther has one point where the story is interactive, ergo game. (IMO). Pretentious game, but game nonetheless.

Where?

OT: No. I'd call it a visual novel.

Isn't there that bit at the end where

I might be mistaken, though, because if I want to walk around for two hours listening to someone being pretentious, I'll do it IRL with like a podcast or something :)

The exact same topic (sans the poll, perhaps) came up a couple of weeks back when Dear Esther came out on Steam. I recall people were trying to define "game" which came after failing to define "video game" (because that was just a game but on a computing system of some sort), which briefly went into defining terms used in the definition of "game" (what is a goal, etc.). I don't remember what level of definitions did people hit there. And I'm too lazy to look it up.

I think we can agree that it can be called "interactive entertainment" and we can toss in "video" or something to signify it's related to computers. Also, we can apply the same label to all other video games. And agree that the medium is evolving.

Nope. I haven't personally played it, but I've seen footage and heard a great deal about it (the TotalBiscuit video in particular). It's a semi-interactive audio-book with stunning visuals, but little else.

No. It's a virtual novel. That should not be a dirty word, but people should be under no illusions that what they are experiencing is somehow a game. User interactivity is very limited in something such as Dear Esther. Virtual reality novels, the 3D cousins of visual novels.

I accept that many people do enjoy VR novels, but they cannot be played as you would a game. What is there to "play"?

Dear Esther has you move around, you have a flashlight/torch that turns on and off in darker environments, you have a set goal to end it and it has a story that is being told to you so you can understand what is going on; to me that labels it a game, not a traditional game but a game nonetheless.

If it is then Visual Novels are games too.

The thing is, if you take a rigid definition of a game then it's not really a game. A game is structured play. It has both winning conditions, losing conditions and a set of rules all players (even if it's one) must follow.

However, that definition is a bit dated. Wikipedia sums it up pretty good:

A game is structured playing, usually undertaken for enjoyment and sometimes used as an educational tool. Games are distinct from work, which is usually carried out for remuneration, and from art, which is more often an expression of aesthetic or ideological elements. However, the distinction is not clear-cut, and many games are also considered to be work (such as professional players of spectator sports/games) or art (such as jigsaw puzzles or games involving an artistic layout such as Mahjong, solitaire, or some video games).

Kahunaburger:
Isn't there that bit at the end where

I might be mistaken, though, because if I want to walk around for two hours listening to someone being pretentious, I'll do it IRL with like a podcast or something :)

There's not a single moment of interaction in the game, all you can do is walk around and there's only one right path (you can diverge from it a few times, but your only reward is the extra several minutes you need to walk back - there's no running).

I didn't hate it. It's an... interesting little story and I liked some of it. It works much better as a mod than a game with an actual price tag on it though. It is not a game however, as I've said, there's nothing interactive about it, it's just a short story set into a game environment with a bit of randomness (the story is triggered at several points, but random lines are triggered, so playing it again isn't exactly the same and someone can get a bit of a different experience than you, despite you both doing the same thing).

Vrach:

Kahunaburger:
Isn't there that bit at the end where

I might be mistaken, though, because if I want to walk around for two hours listening to someone being pretentious, I'll do it IRL with like a podcast or something :)

There's not a single moment of interaction in the game, all you can do is walk around and there's only one right path (you can diverge from it a few times, but your only reward is the extra several minutes you need to walk back - there's no running).

I didn't hate it. It's an... interesting little story and I liked some of it. It works much better as a mod than a game with an actual price tag on it though. It is not a game however, as I've said, there's nothing interactive about it, it's just a short story set into a game environment with a bit of randomness (the story is triggered at several points, but random lines are triggered, so playing it again isn't exactly the same and someone can get a bit of a different experience than you, despite you both doing the same thing).

Wow, I didn't know that. So in other words playing it is basically an identical experience to watching someone playing it on youtube haha.

DoPo:
The exact same topic (sans the poll, perhaps) came up a couple of weeks back when Dear Esther came out on Steam. I recall people were trying to define "game" which came after failing to define "video game" (because that was just a game but on a computing system of some sort), which briefly went into defining terms used in the definition of "game" (what is a goal, etc.). I don't remember what level of definitions did people hit there. And I'm too lazy to look it up.

I think we can agree that it can be called "interactive entertainment" and we can toss in "video" or something to signify it's related to computers. Also, we can apply the same label to all other video games. And agree that the medium is evolving.

Sounds like most piracy discussions here. They never talk about the issue, but just keep trying to come up with the best analogy. "OK...so say it's like a farm? No? A restaurant? The hundred acre wood?"

I think everyone is dancing around the point. Dictionary definitions of "game" are irrelevant; I don't think any of us play games just because they're in the same category as sports, chess and twister. We draw some value from gaming, a value that doesn't stem just from the rules, the conflict, or the challenge.

Doubting Dear Esther's status as a game isn't a semantic quarrel, just like homophobes aren't really worried about human procreation when they gay-bash. It's merely a case of people being uncomfortable with something that changes the status quo, so they argue semantics when the product obviously still belongs to the same hobby and is played for the same reasons (exploration, emotional investment, catharsis) as all other videogames.

It's also a matter of degrading other people's experiences - if they didn't play a "game", then they don't get to bring up the non-game in question in discussions and "it doesn't count" when arguing about the nature of the medium. It's also vehemently exclusive and imposes one group's definition of the medium ("a game is something where you shoot, punch, jump or talk at things, and watching/moving does not equal interacting") over everyone else's, presumably also telling them that they didn't actually enjoy the thing they enjoyed.

Kahunaburger:
Wow, I didn't know that. So in other words playing it is basically an identical experience to watching someone playing it on youtube haha.

Pretty much, yeah. Just hold down the W key while watching it on YT and you'll get about the same experience.

You can move the character/camera. It's interactive. Therefore game.

Is "pretentious, navel-gazing crap" a genre? If it is, then we can call it a game.

Why doesn't anybody regard narrative as an interactive feature of a game? Of course its a game: it requires you to move from place to place, driving the development of the narrative, characterisation, and, ultimately, the 'plot' of the story you're experiencing. Your own actions affect the feedback that you receive from the software, in the same way that when you play Call of Duty or Shadow of the Colossus, your actions are reflected in the game's set narrative.

The definition, "a series of meaningful choices" is sometimes used to define games. Clearly, there a few things in existence that don't fit this definition. The weakness of this definition? Its not broad enough. It doesn't include games like candyland.

If you accept that candyland is a game, which I think we all do, then Dear Esther must be a game. What would exclude it? Candyland has the same choices. There being only 1 real choice doesn't make tic tac toe not a game after you solve it. It has a very different core aesthetic from normal games, but it is still firmly in the realm of game.

A better question would be, Does it even matter?

It's all just pointless semantics, as I see it. What difference does it make whether you call Dear Esther a game or visual novel or whatever? It's still going to be sold on Steam, people who liked it are going to continue to like it and I'm going to continue to find it bloody boring, regardless of whether it's officially treated as a game or not. There're countless people who've been calling visual novels games (or even dating sims *shudder*) for ages and the world still hasn't collapsed.

Dear Esther is a video game, there's no way around that. Anyone who says otherwise is using some personal warped impression of how they define a game. Dear Esther is interactive and designed to be interactive. There's no way around that no matter how much you want to draw the line before it.

Saying "it's not much of a game" is pretty accurate, but flat out stating it isn't a game is a slippery slope based on arbitrary standards. It is a game. Period. Live with that and discuss the game itself instead of its label.

Or, try arguing whether its style holds up as a game or not.

 

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