Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Please Tell Me A (Better) Story

Dear Esther
I was born in a story world and raised in a colony of storytellers. If North American Van Lines had not showed up that summer day and hauled us from right to left, I might still be tucked away in a place where people chisel at the truth buried deep inside mountains, and sell the tiny black bits to the highest bidders.

Instead, we landed on the left coast where you learn quickly that stories aren't really made of truth, and to slowly chip, chip, chip away just to get at a few bits is oh-so-gauche. After all, you're in Hollywood baby - go big, or go home. The challenge is that (for now) only the big can go big, and the littles - well they just stay home scraping at cave walls with a spoon.

Dear Esther
And that's what it feels like if you dare to explore Dear Esther - a story world spooned from the Half-Life 2 engine - not a game, but marketed confused as one; not a great narrative, but heralded as one; not a blockbuster, though nominally a cave buster of an experience.

I found it to be a beautifully immersive and refreshing glimpse at what is still to come in the future of storytelling.

Your mileage may vary.

In this episode of our I Have To Tell You Something podcast, Salome scolds me for:

- allowing her to go off on her own and recklessly spend ten bucks on Dear Esther;
- being hallucinatory and delusional;
- being fooled by the pseudo-artistic intellectuals, the ultimate cave dwellers.

She may also have an opinion on the use of narrative.

While I didn't agonize too much over the clumsy dialog, I still found Dear Esther to be entertaining - like a lot of movies I watch.

Yes, I had to hold down the W key until my forefinger cramped and cursed me, and I banged my knees a few times on the rickety story rails, and more than once the narrator had to yank me by the collar and say "Come back." - but it was a beautiful excursion that made me think about the possibilities.

Overall, it was a little bit like Mr Toad's Wild Ride: the line is not as long but the end is, well ..

Dear Esther, the end.
.. let's hope the future of storytelling gets a little brighter.

UPDATE: Forgot the episode notes!

What's a Little TextPeople? A business acquired by Linden Lab, with intriguing ideas about the future of storytelling. "The result of this investment will be a new type of digital entertainment that modernizes the novel as a shared story-telling experience." - Rod Humble

Who is Emily Short? Co-founder of the aforementioned, Emily Short is a leoplurodon of the interactive fiction world. Shun! Shun the non-believers!

Who is Shelley Long? In this case, she is a weak attempt at metaphor. Please donate to the metaphor revival fund.

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