The title that arguably kickstarted one of the most controversial gaming genres of the last decade is getting a re-release on the latest consoles
The intention was to explore the limits of the first-person shooter genre. This was the idea that drove a small group of researchers at the University of Portsmouth to develop the original version of Dear Esther in 2007. Set on a remote Hebridean island, the game offered no puzzles, no peril, no allies or enemies to interact with. The player progressed through the haunted, barren landscape while a tragic story of love and loss played out around them. They walked, they listened, they watched.
It was minimal, it was experimental, but there was something about the game – it’s beautiful environments, its haunting soundtrack, its sullen, almost despairing atmosphere, that caught people’s attention. This was a genre associated with fast-paced blasters like Doom and Unreal, but here was a game about a man descending into grief, the nature of which remained elusive, but centred on the titular Esther. It generated enough interest that co-creators Dan Pinchbeck and Jessica Curry were able to set up their studio, The Chinese Room (named after the philosophical thought experiment), as a commercial venture to develop a standalone version.