Reflections on Dear Esther



Developer & Publisher:    thechineseroom & Robert Briscoe

Released:  February 2012

System Requirements:

  • OS: Microsoft Windows XP / Vista / Vista64
  • Processor: Pentium 4 3.0GHz
  • Memory: 1 GB RAM
  • Graphics: 128 MB, Shader model 2.0 or higher
  • DirectX®: dx90c
  • Hard Drive: 2 GB HD space
  • Sound: DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card



Dear Esther. This island is sprawling, rocky, misshapen like a green/grey ink blot on a blue expanse. I breathe in white plumes of in-rolling mist. I shiver at the stark beauty of the land, the sea, the flowing brooks. These dark shadows which move and hover may or may not be ghosts... This island appears to be mine to explore alone. Words are spoken, solemn – As confession? Warning? Fragment atop fragment, eventual cohesion – or not; for it is interpretation, after all.

An island in the Outer Hebrides -- symbolic of isolation. Heather, rocks, sand, and a voice. The voice describes some of the former inhabitants -- a monk, a hermit, those who were shipwrecked. Does isolation have a different character if you choose it, rather than having it forced upon you?

Four chapters encompass the whole: Lighthouse, Buoy, Caves and Beacon. A sometimes perilous journey from the sea edge to the summit. Shepherd, Cartographer, Hermit, Traveller: listen to their stories while you walk. Come back, for the sea does not want you. Damascus is... here? On dry ground. No inventory to weigh you down. No run, no jump, no speak. Listen, for it is quiet. Walk, or else remain rooted. Come back.

Yes, and there are paths everywhere. Some obvious, others not. None beaten, exactly, but I like walking near the edges rather than down the straightway. I've seen creatures that fly, but none that trudge or swim. Everything that breathes is transient. Heather and wild flowers. Are those wax flowers? No, but I'm waxing flowery.

At the lighthouse, I try to pick up a book. I can't lift it. I can't turn knobs or shift planks either. I know I have hands because I hold a flashlight. And I have feet because I hear my own footsteps. When I fall, I hear myself gasping for air. I should be thankful that I can still hear and see.

Dear Esther. The caves. I wish that you might see them, share them. They are green and blue and white. They shimmer with water and sparkle with ice. Stalactites and stalagmites. Dive in, swim, crawl, in amazement, in breathless wonder, in awe. Follow the small paper boat to where so many others cluster, bottlenecked. I will fold an 'A' into the creases. Follow the path which leads out to the moon.

This voice is sonorous, deep, all at once reflective. It may grow angered, for the story that it tells it finds distressing, sometimes. No lifeless monotone, this; no cardboard faker; no half-hearted drear. It is steeped in experience, pain, regret, acceptance, non-acceptance.

Aching, melancholy strings, woven, textural, subtle and soaring. Dear Esther, this music that surrounds us is bleak and beautiful, moving and magnificent. No cheap synthesiser, this; no plastic drum, that; no broad cacophony. Its purity is fitting to this landscape.

A light is blinking at the end of the island. Why is it there? Perhaps I'm not alone. The light means hope. I'm sure of it!

I have been on the road to Damascus. I am the hermit who threw his arms open and the cliff parted. From two to four hours, from dawn to night. A lifetime in an echo of ecstasy and regret.

And if you have searched well and worn down your boot leather, you might yet reach the summit with a wider understanding. And each journey that you take might yet differ subtly in its narration. And certain objects that you pass by on your way might not be there, or new ones shall take their place. The song remains the same. The end remains the same. Climb.

Dear Esther. Come back...


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