"They don’t need their hands held, or things always spelled out. They are sophisticated, media-literate, smart people. It’s okay for things not to make sense."- Dear Esther writer and project lead Dan Pinchbeck of developer thechineseroom explains how trusting his audience's intelligence paid off in the end for his narrative-driven game. The explanation comes by way of a postmortem published in the latest issue of Gamasutra sister publication Game Developer magazine, which should be arriving in mailboxes right about now. The digital edition is available as of today. Of the various lessons Pinchbeck learned during the game's development, he tells us that learning to trust his audience's intelligence was the biggest one of all. "We trusted gamers to be adaptable, open to a slightly different experience, able to think and feel for themselves," he says. Authors of the best works of fiction in any medium have always intentionally left out content and ideas, fleshing out the story in a way that gives the published material a sense of scale, of a whole world just behind the curtain. But video game authors in even our most respectable works tend to shy away from this. Is it because the medium is still maturing? Does Dear Esther's independent success mean that the mainstream market is craving game stories with the depth of classic literature?
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Are video game players ready for subtle storytelling?
"They don’t need their hands held, or things always spelled out. They are sophisticated, media-literate, smart people. It’s okay for things not to make sense." -Dear Esther developer Dan Pinchbeck.