Dear Esther Live and the confluence of gaming and music
- Murray Robertson
- 19 July 2017
Game soundtracks are a big deal as Sonica's headline performance confirms
Sonica has announced its full programme for 2017 and the headline performance is the Scottish premiere of Dear Esther Live, a unique chance to passively explore a visually compelling computer generated landscape accompanied by a stunning live score.
When Dear Esther launched for PC in 2012 it quietly heralded the birth of the 'walking Simulator', a game genre that provokes much ire among some gamers, although it has plenty of fans; most recently, What Remains of Edith Finch stunned critics and gamers with its gorgeously detailed exploration through a labyrinthine family home. Its tremendous success suggests the walking simulator isn't going anywhere soon.
Dear Esther is set on a fictional Hebridean island which, when playing the game, you explore using basic walking controls while a man recites fragments of a series of letters written to the titular woman. And that's pretty much it. There are no puzzles beyond trying to figure out who you represent and why you're there, and both those answers remain fairly abstract. It works primarily as a meditative and contemplative piece of interactive fiction, and much of that success comes down to the extraordinary, melancholic soundtrack composed by Jessica Curry (who won a BAFTA for her score for 2016 walking simulator Everybody's Gone to the Rapture).
So it was no great surprise when, last year, to celebrate its release on PS4 and Xbox One, the Dear Esther soundtrack was performed live at the Barbican while a narrator guided audiences through the game. There have been a number of video game concerts in recent years, notably performances of Skyrim, Final Fantasy, Silent Hill Live and Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions, proving that great game soundtracks are finally getting the recognition they deserve.
Dear Esther Live, Tramway, Glasgow, Fri 3 Nov.
Sonica, various venues, Glasgow, Thu 26 Oct–Sun 5 Nov.
Dear Esther Live, Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Sat 20 Jan 2018.