Dear Esther Soundtrack, Jessica Curry, 2012
It seems fair to say that it’s usually indie video games that push the boundaries of the medium and have gamers and audiences asking “But is it a game?” (“Is it art?” being a close second). One of these games, Dear Esther, was initially a research project at the University of Plymouth. The title’s gameplay is fairly unusual. Players find themselves a barren island in the Hebrides and left to explore the surroundings. Meanwhile, a male voice-over reads out random letter fragments to a woman named Esther. With no threat of death and no tasks to be fulfilled, Dear Esther instead aims to capture gamers’ intrigue simply by letting them figure out – or just interpret – the fragmented narrative that hints at a tragedy preceding the events in the game. Encouragingly, this experiment in digital storytelling received significant critical acclaim and was a commercial success.
Dear Esther also launched the game music career of composer Jessica Curry. Curry’s body of work before Dear Esther included arts installations, film soundtracks and cross-media projects. A co-founder of Dear Esther’s developer The Chinese Room, Curry was closely involved in the game’s creation from its inception. Curry’s aim was for the music “to add an emotional dimension” to the game. That was a crucial task, given that Dear Esther‘s challenge-free gameplay doesn’t reward the player with a sense of odds overcome, but instead must satisfy gamers by delivering a memorable experience.