Gone Home and Dear Esther are both video games used as a way to study history. In Gone Home you enter a house as Kaitlin, the eldest sister in her family, and begin to discover different things about her family. Through finding diary entries and various other remainings in the now vacant home, you begin to unpack a lot of information about the family and their past.
Similarly, in Dear Esther, the player is placed on a desolate island instead of a home. The player wonders the island discovering past inhabitants of the island, and also a bit of a personal history of the narrator. Through the game you develope a mini history lesson of the island.
Both of these games teach you something about history quite effectively by placing the player in someone else’s shoes. I’ve learned that video games do a better job than most modes of art or literature at teaching empathy.
I partially agree with the idea that Gone Home is more of a game about history while Dear Esther is more relevant to literature given its obscure language with a fairly religious tone. Yet the two are the quite alike when it comes to their skillfulness in drawing players into the context. When thinking about the two games, I barely scrutinize the information they give us, rather focus on how I feel about the game. Gone Home arouses my curiosity towards a certain culture and life while Dear Esther offers a sense of despair. Therefore, we can say that Gone Home and Dear Esther are different in the type of context they have designed but they’re quite similar to each other as games.
One of the main differences between “Gone Home” and “Dear Esther” is the writing style of the queries that both narrators present at key moments in the games. “Dear Esther has a very poetic and abstract writing style. It is still unclear to me exactly what the writer of the game was trying to get across. The one thing that I am almost sure of is that the narrator (also the protagonist) got in a drunk driving accident that caused the death of his wife, Esther. The island that the narrator is on is one of isolation and guilt. He is severely depressed because of what he has done and feels like life is almost not worth living anymore. This island could be a metaphor of the metaphysical and social isolation that he experiences, from friends, and loved ones, for what he has done. In the end, the narrator decides that life is just not worth it anymore so he decides to take his own life and get off the island, away from all of his guilt forever. Not a single part of this writing piece was literally in the actual transcript of “Dear Esther” which is one of the main reasons why it is so different from “Gone Home” which has a much more literal approach.
“Where Dear Esther invites the kind of textual analysis at which students of literature excel, Gone Home demands something more akin to source comparison.” What distinction is Bell drawing between these two games — between literature and history — and do you agree with his distinction? What similarities do you see between the two games?
Exploration is a core concept in both of these games: “Dear Esther” and “Gone home”, however they target different goals. In Bell’s article, the author draws a main distinction between the two in the sense that while “Gone Home” requires the gamer to have a skill of a historian when piecing the clues together, “Dear Esther” is based on “a single ambiguous narrative voice”. As a result, “Dear Esther” is mostly based on a literature analysis whereas “Gone Home” projects the reader in uncovering the story on his own. I agree with this distinction as I had the same feeling when interacting with both games.
Similarly, the player feels involved on a personal level in both games. In “Gone Home”, the fact of incarnating Katie and investigating her house and uncovering personal objects from each member of the family makes the reader feel also a part of the story. In “Dear Esther”, the player had the access to what is comparable to journal entries or letters from a man to his wife. As a result, the player has access to emotions which allows him to sympathize with the narrator.
-Richard Bell, “Family History: Source Analysis in Gone Home”. Play the Past, accessed 13 Sept. 2016.
The Chinese Room, “Dear Esther“, 14 February 2012
Dear Esther and Gone Home are similar games in that both of them are relatable to our current lives. Gone Home depicts the troubles a modern family could have, and Dear Esther colorfully describes a car crash where a mans wife is killed. They use similar literary techniques that slowly reveal hints at what the main plot or message is. Both games use the dialogue of a narrator to narrate the story, but they also use imagery. Gone Home has clues about the family that you can find throughout the house, and Dear Esther uses the landscape of the island to depict small events or hints of the car crash.
Richard Bell describes “Gone Home” as a game with a historical narrative and as a means from which we can learn from the past. On the other hand, Bell portrays “Dear Esther” as a literary source where the player must learn through the poetic literature presented in throughout the game.
I agree with this distinction having played both games and I find both ways to be effective because both games try to convey different techniques of gameplay. Although it was difficult at times in Dear Esther to know exactly who was narrating, that in itself was motivation to finish the game so that I could find answers at the end. Unfortunately, I was as confusing, if not, more confused after the conclusion of the game.
I agree with the distinctions that Bell makes between Dear Esther and Gone home. Dear Esther encourages us to make sense of the story through literary texts whereas Gone Home is a more engaging game in that it lets us interact with intimate objects in order to piece the story together. Dear Esther is more of a game in which students with a strong literary background can excel, which makes it more of a contextual game than Gone Home. Even the formal texts in Dear Esther depicts a type of writing that is more advanced and professional. I personally like Gone Home in terms of the player’s interaction with the game and the objects within it. Anyone with any degree of common sense is able to piece together some part of the story whether it be about Katie, Sam, or their parents. People with some knowledge of the culture in that particular time era can better understand the game, which makes it more of a historical game. Both games are similar in the way they let the players explore the plot for themselves. Nothing is conveyed all at once.
Gone Home and Dear Esther are similar yet different in many ways. Both games force you to draw conclusions of what happened where the player plays as the narrator, hearing or reading stories about others to create some image. Dear Esther seems to be more literature to me. It seemed to be more story telling than even a game actually. Players just explored the island and excerpts of the narrator’s thoughts and letters came up. There did not seem to be an objective really. However, with Gone Home the player had to uncover and discover parts of the narrator’s story. Gone Home was a lot more interactive than Dear Esther. Gone Home would be more historical the literary, since players had to uncover many things, draw conclusions, and several historical references were also made. I do agree with Richard Bell’s distinction about the two games as literature and history. Honestly though, I do not see Dear Esther even as a game. Both games gave a gloomy and depressing vibe when first playing the game. However, I do not believe Gone Home ended sad, but Dear Esther continued to be haunting even till the end.
Both Dear Esther and Gone Home are slow paced games which allow you to explore the setting around. The games do this in different ways. Gone Home allows you to examine the objects in the Greenbriar’s middle class home and use them to make assumptions about Katie Greenbriar, her family and her friends. You take the objects and learn what each character is going through and the history of that character. In Dear Esther, you are more guided down one path. You can explore the setting, but there is really only a few different paths you can go in each level, and every step to the next level is the same for everyone. Also in Dear Esther, there is only really one story. A man is hurt and stuck on a deserted beach and is trying to escape. In the end, he can’t take the pain anymore and frees himself from it by committing suicide. It is more simple than gone home because the clues to explain the plot are told to you or directly in your path.
My first reaction while playing Dear Esther was that it was going to be exactly like Gone Home. I thought that I was going to need to be picking up objects and waiting for journal entries to come up. So, the first thing that I did was head into the abandoned house and look around. To my surprise, I wasn’t able to pick anything up, I was only allowed to walk. after a couple minutes of walking through the mountain, something similar to a journal entry from Gone Home came up. I kept on following the paths in the hopes that I was heading the right way. In the end, although I definitely enjoyed the sights more in Dear Esther, I was able to understand Gone Home’s story better. The problem I had with Dear Esther was that sometimes the “journal entries” were too far apart from each other, so sometimes I could’t quite remember the last thing he was saying. Also, the entries would just go away, you weren’t able to replay them which made it hard to piece everything together.