Dear Esther: bizarre, touching Half Life 2 mod

Jim from Rock Paper Shotgun sez, "We recently posted up this piece by upcoming games critic Lewis Denby. It's about Dear Esther a bizarre Half-Life 2 modification set on an abandoned island. The mod itself is fascinating because of the slow, poetic style and superb narration – the designer Dan Pinchbeck describes it as a "interactive ghost story" – and it's more like a piece of fiction read with a mouse and keyboard than any trad horror-game. But what's interesting to me is the way it provoked Denby to examine the response of gamers to the mod, and how it changed his personal comprehension of what games could or should be doing."

If you're looking for fun, I've no idea why you're playing Dear Esther in the first place. This is fearless, classical tragedy. It ends with the sound of a heart monitor flatlining, for goodness' sake. Lead designer Dan Pinchbeck describes it as "an interactive ghost story," but the inevitable connotations of that are misleading. This isn't about bumps in the night or any other hackneyed horror archetypes. It's deep, heart-tugging, emotional trauma. Dear Esther is indeed ghostly and ethereal, but it's all thematic notation. Really, the only horror is in realising how truly heartbreaking this tale is.

Some people will tell you it's not a game. Depending on your definitions, maybe it isn't. You play as… well, that's never revealed, and since it's all in uninterrupted first-person, you've no way of finding out. During your time on what initially appears to be a remote Hebridean island, a disembodied voice will read fragments of a series of letters, written to a woman named Esther who we're never introduced to. And you'll explore, climbing higher and higher up the mountain in the centre, piecing together the proverbial puzzle and trying to establish, often in vain, just what this place is.

Touched By The Hand Of Mod: Dear Esther

(Thanks, Jim!)