Walking across virtual and physical worlds

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Dear Esther (The Chinese Room, 2012) is a poetic meditation on guilt, loss and redemption which unfolds as the player explores a desolate island. The game’s island is haunting and beautiful, sensorially rich, evocative and symbolically charged, uninhabited except for gulls, ghosts and legends. To focus the player’s attention on the environment and the narrative, the designers have stripped down the game’s mechanics to a bare minimum: the only permitted in-game actions are walking, (limited) swimming, zooming-in, and looking around. In October 2016, 50 audience members arrived on Inchcolm, a Scottish island in the Firth of Forth, to participate in Inchcolm Project, a hybrid experience which combined elements of performance, video games, and live music. Inchcolm Project was structured as a three-part experience: a promenade performance (an adaptation of Dear Esther), a gameplay projection (Dear Esther was played live and projected onto the Inchcolm Abbey wall), and a musical performance (Mantra Collective Orchestra performing Dear Esther’s soundtrack live in Inchcolm Abbey). This paper is a critical reflection on the design strategies developed in its making, namely site- and game-responsive design, the aesthetic of the ruin and of the palimpsest and walking as a performative and dramaturgic practice of making-sense and sense-making (Machon, 2009). I argue that Inchcolm Project invited the audience to engage with Inchcolm island as a liminal space, a threshold between water and land, virtual and physical, historical and fictional, past and present, video game and performance.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2019
EventWandering Games Conference 2019 - Bangor University, Bangor, United Kingdom
Duration: 10 Jul 201912 Jul 2019


ConferenceWandering Games Conference 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • Walking simulators
  • Re-mediation
  • Promenade performance
  • Adaptation
  • Inchcolm


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