The point in Dear Esther that really caught my eye was the moment when the player finds their character left underwater staring at what seems to be the aftermath of a car crash or a hospital bed. To me what makes this particular moment so poignant is how it seems to separate the player from reality. Before this moment the world created for us in Dear Esther is a fairly believable one. When the player is walking through the hills, the caves, and the beaches of this island we are being told a tale. It at first would be very understandable to think that your character, which you never see, is the narrator giving a glimpse into his life.
He talks vaguely about a car accident with someone who is drunk and as you listen to these snippets of narration a lot of possibilities come up. It is hinted at that the drunk might be your character and narrator and at the same time there are writings that imply that it was another who caused the accident.
The reason I chose this moment is how it made me feel when I played through it. The player’s movement speed is decreased and you find yourself either staring at a smashed car on the side of the road or a hospital bed left in the middle of a dark street. You watch as the bubbles rise from your character. This mechanic really gives the feeling of being in a drug or alcohol induced haze as there is some impending doom. Both the crushed car and the hospital bed can very easily be seen as symbols of death and pain.
The moment leading up to this scene has you jump from a high height into a pool, everything goes dark and when you can see again you are in the scene. It feels like the game is having us jump into a pool of his memories so that we can see more vague hints at something terrible. A huge point in this game is how they never give you a complete understanding of what happened in the life of person whom you are following. The programmers use a great deal of literary reference and randomly generated dialogue or even whole scenes. This aspect helps to give me the feeling of being a daze rather than being in control of the main character. It is rather similar to feeling detached and allowing things to happen to your person.
Most video games will often try to have you feel like you are immersed in the world they create however Dear Esther gave me such a feeling of calm acceptance. It made me feel that whatever came next it didn’t truly matter. I say this as a compliment because I imagine this is how the programmers would want me to feel as it seems to be how the narrator would imply our character feels. He has come to this island to die after having lost everything important to him, if you interpret the game that way. That is how I interpret that game and so while it does have me feel detached it is how the game also has me feeling closest to how I think the character feels as he plans to end it all.