The developer behind indy art-house hit, Dear Esther, says emotional stimulus is the reason for the game’s success.
Dan Pinchbeck said “emotional sandboxing”, giving players component parts and the time and space to draw meaning out of it, is the foundation that has given the game such broad appeal, and is the reason its success can be repeated.
“It about throwing open a large number of symbols, ideas and images, that we hope are going to resonate with players, and giving time and the space to put them together to create the kind of architecture, emotionally, that they are wanting,” he said at the Develop Conference.
“So we’re not going to tell you how to feel, in the same way Minecraft doesn’t tell you how to build.
“In the same way Minecraft becomes intrinsically rewarding, putting those blocks together to make those combinations, Dear Esther rests on the idea that it is intrinsically rewarding to engage with the images and symbols that come out.”
Dear Esther is an experiential adventure game has done well critical and commercially. The game gives players a range of visual stimuli which encourage them to solve puzzles and explore the gameworld itself.
Pinchbeck went on to argue that emotional sandboxing has existed in games for a long time. He feels this is why Dear Esther is not a one-off.
He used Shadow of the Colossus as a successful example of emotional sandboxing. However, with Heavy Rain, he said the complexity of its mechanics got in the way of its emotional hook.