I Have Not Reviewed: The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter

Well, since I didn’t really do a proper review of this one, but I still want to bring it to people’s attention, here is a separate post for The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.

Crow count: 1.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a strange videogame that evokes the sense of a mystery novel, despite not really being like a book at all.

There’s been a few of these in the past years.

Dear Esther is the first I heard of, and while I haven’t played it, I did hear that it maybe took the concept a bit far, by allowing exploration, but very little interaction.

Gone Home was the first I played, and it basically let you pick up and tamper with pretty much anything you found in the house, and even added some light puzzles to play with.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter has a series of different puzzles that you can essentially solve at your own leisure.

What these games have in common in my mind is that when you sit down and play them, you more get the feeling of settling down with a book than the feeling of playing out some sort of movie or role-playing scenario. They’re slow-paced and relaxed, and prefer to let you take your time and invoke your sense of wonder, mystery and/or nostalgia to create a connection with you. They try to connect emotionally rather than mechanically, and that doesn’t work on everyone. Especially if the story offered is not to their liking.

These are risky projects from a business standpoint, but well worth it for those who do manage to connect. There is no shame in not enjoying these games, you simply weren’t part of the audience they aimed for. As far as I’ve been able to tell, none of my three examples were really offensive in any way, which does make me curious as to why some people are so angry at them. It’s not for you and it’s not hurting anyone, so why do you care? Does everything have to be made with you in mind? Does the existence of these games take away other games you like?

The answer to both of those questions are no, by the way.

I still haven’t figured out quite what to call this… genre, if you will. I’m not even sure that’s the right name for it. In my mind I just think of them as “videogame books”, but I think that for a lot of people that would inspire the wrong image, and they might think of something like a digital choose-your-own-adventure book, which it really is not. It’s a shame Visual Novel is also taken, as the aesthetics and art design are a big part of what makes the games work.

Also there’s the issue that although these games feel like books, they definitely aren’t, and most likely would never work as such. The stuff you see, hear and do is every bit as much of the experience as just reading bits of the story. It is really something only videogames can accomplish. If more of these sorts of games are made, maybe we should put more serious thought into coming up with a term for them.



Posted on October 11, 2014, in Games, Sorta reviews and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. How about FPM? First person mystery? Myst was actually the first really big game of this genre. It was a popular game back in the day, but they never made it to consoles, so they’re a little more obscure now. The point and click style of the early games can still be seen in Tell Tale games like Wolf Among Us and The Walking Dead, but for PC, this wandering style is becoming really popular. Another name for it is spacial narratives.

    I also have no time for people who buy a game based on the Meta Critic score and then get annoyed when it’s not what they expected. If you don’t like it, don’t play it.

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