The Chinese Room

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The Chinese Room Ltd
IndustryVideo game industry
Founded2007; 12 years ago (2007)
Key people
Dan Pinchbeck
Jessica Curry
ProductsDear Esther
Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Everybody's Gone to the Rapture
Number of employees
2 (2017)
ParentSumo Digital (2018–present)

The Chinese Room Ltd (formerly Thechineseroom Limited until 11 June 2013)[1] is a British video game developer best known for exploration games,[2] such as the Half-Life 2 mod Dear Esther, and co-developing its full-fledged remake. The company originated as a mod team for Half-Life 2, based at the University of Portsmouth in 2007, and is named after John Searle's Chinese room thought experiment. As of August 14, 2018, it became a subsidiary of Sumo Digital.


Mods (2007–2009)[edit]

Thechineseroom's first three projects were two mods for Half-Life 2, named Antlion Soccer and Dear Esther, and a Doom 3 mod titled Conscientious Objector. The modding project was backed by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Of these, Dear Esther became a cult hit. In 2009, Thechineseroom developed Korsakovia, which was a survival horror mod.[3][4]

Games (2009–2017)[edit]

After Korsakovia, Thechineseroom worked with Robert Briscoe to develop a remake of Dear Esther, this time as a full-fledged video game title, distributed through Valve Corporation's Steam distribution service. This stand-alone version of the mod received several IGF nominations, such as the Seamus McNally Grand Prize, Excellence in Visual Arts and Audio, and the Nuovo Award.[5] It finally won for Excellence in Visual Art.[6] The remake featured improved graphics, but was based on the same engine as the previous mods, Source. The game was released in early 2012 and recouped its $55,000 investment in less than six hours of release, when 16,000 copies of the game were sold.[7] One week after launch, the game reached 50,000 copies sold.[8]

In February 2012, Thechineseroom announced that they began development on Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, a survival horror game and indirect sequel to Amnesia: The Dark Descent. This project was produced by the makers of the original game, Frictional Games.[9][10] It was later released on 10 September 2013.[11]

Thechineseroom also began work on their newest title, Everybody's Gone to the Rapture alongside the development of Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs.[12] During that time, on 12 July 2013, they renamed themselves from Thechineseroom to The Chinese Room. Initially developed on PC, the team was afraid it would not receive enough funding from fans. They instead partnered with Sony Computer Entertainment's Santa Monica Studio to produce the game. It was re-revealed at Gamescom 2013 during Sony's conference as a PlayStation 4 exclusive. The title was finally released on 11 August 2015.[13]

Downsizing (2017–2018)[edit]

In late July 2017, The Chinese Room's directors, Dan Pinchbeck and Jessica Curry, laid off the entire staff—at that point what amounted to eight people—and ditched their Brighton office for home. They cited the lack of ability to pay their staff during the interim between projects as the reason for the closure, and expressed their intentions that the studio itself was still running without the development team, with Pinchbeck and Curry working on prototyping and acquiring funds on their own time. The company released a VR title, So Let Us Melt, for Google Daydream in September, which was the final project of the former studio. Pinchbeck, Curry, and Andrew Crawshaw were working alone on the studio's next project, 13th Interior, which will push away from the "walking simulator" model the studio has been known for up to this point.[14]

On 14 August 2018, Sumo Group, the parent company of Sumo Digital, acquired The Chinese Room for GB£2.2 million, making it the fourth UK-based studio under Sumo Digital. Co-founder Pinchbeck took the role of creative director for Sumo, while Curry will continue on as a independent composer for the studio. Pinchbeck described the acquisition as "the end of a chapter" for the studio as they determine their next project.[15]

Games developed[edit]

Year Title
2008 Conscientious Objector (mod)
Dear Esther (mod)
Antlion Soccer (mod)
2009 Korsakovia (mod)
2012 Dear Esther
2013 Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
2015 Everybody's Gone to the Rapture
2017 Dear Esther: Landmark Edition
So Let Us Melt[16]


  1. ^ Curry, Jessica (11 June 2013). "Welcome to the New Us". Retrieved 24 July 2013.
  2. ^ "The Chinese Room is taking a break, partially because it's bored with walking sims". Retrieved 25 August 2018.
  3. ^ Burch, Anthony (25 September 2009). "Korsakovia is like the Silent Hill sequel that never was". Destructoid. Retrieved on 9 March 2012.
  4. ^ RPS (21 September 2009). "An Esther Binge: Korsakovia". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved on 9 March 2012.
  5. ^ Polson, John. Procter, Lewie. (20 February 2012). "Road to the IGF: Thechineseroom's Dear Esther". Gamasutra. Retrieved on 9 March 2012.
  6. ^ Niedringhaus, Melissa (8 March 2012). "Independent Games Festival announces fourteenth annual awards winners". Warpzoned. Retrieved on 9 March 2012.
  7. ^ (18 February 2012). "Half-Life 2: Dear Esther Build Recoups Development Investment in Few Hours". Game Bandits. Retrieved on 9 March 2012.
  8. ^ Chapple, Craig (27 February 2012). "Dear Esther surpasses 50,000 sales". Develop Online. Retrieved on 9 March 2012.
  9. ^ Chalk, Andy (23 February 2012). "Frictional Confirms Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs". The Escapist. Retrieved on 9 March 2012.
  10. ^ Birch, Aaron (23 February 2012). "Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs announced". Den of Geek. Retrieved on 9 March 2012.
  11. ^ "So, the secret is out- Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs is set for...". Retrieved on 28 August 2013.
  12. ^ Pinchbeck, Dan (11 June 2013). "Welcome to the New Us". The Chinese Room. Retrieved on 31 August 2015.
  13. ^ Pinchbeck, Dan (11 June 2015). "Everybody's Gone to the Rapture Comes to PS4 August 11th, 2015". PlayStation. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  14. ^ "The doors close on The Chinese Room - for now". Retrieved 25 August 2018.
  15. ^ Handrahan, Matthew (14 August 2018). "Sumo Digital acquires The Chinese Room". Retrieved 14 August 2018.
  16. ^ "So Let Us Melt". The Chinese Room. Retrieved 22 September 2017.

External links[edit]