The Chinese Room, formerly known as Thechineseroom, is a Brighton-based British video game studio known for making exploration games like Dear Esther. The company was named after John Searle's Chinese room experiment and was founded in 2007 as a Half-Life 2 mod team based out of the University of Portsmouth. Sumo Digital acquired it in August of 2018.
Dan Pinchbeck is the Founder and Creative Director of the UK based studio The Chinese Room.
He is the writer and designer of their games, which include the multi-award winning Dear Esther, widely regarded as the key title in the emergence of the first-person storytelling/exploration genre; the cult horror Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, and therecently released Everybody's Gone to the Rapture.
He is a regular columnist for gamesTM, authored the book Doom: Scarydarkfast, has a PhD in first-person shooters, sits on numerous award panels, and speaks internationally about game design and storytelling.
Two Half-Life 2 mods, Antlion Soccer and Dear Esther, and a Doom 3 mod, Conscientious Objector, were the first works by thechineseroom. The Arts and Humanities Research Council funded the modification effort. Dear Esther, among these, was the most widely read and acclaimed. Thechineseroom released its survival horror add-on Korsakovia in 2009.
Thechineseroom, after working on Korsakovia with Robert Briscoe, remade Dear Esther with the intention of releasing it as a full video game through Valve's Steam platform. In addition to being nominated for the Seamus McNally Grand Prize, Excellence in Visual Arts and Audio, and the Nuovo Award, this standalone version of the mod also won recognition for its innovative design. The award for Outstanding Visual Artwork was given to it at last. The visuals were updated, however the recreation used the same Source engine as the original mods. Soon after its 2012 release, the game had sold 50,000 copies.
Thechineseroom revealed in February 2012 that they had started development on Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, a survival horror game and indirect sequel to Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Those clever folks over at Frictional Games, who created the original game, also made this. Thechineseroom also began work on their newest title, Everybody's Gone to the Rapture alongside the development of Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs. During that time, on 11 June 2013, they renamed themselves from Thechineseroom to The Chinese Room, introducing a new logo. The studio team partnered with Santa Monica Studio to produce Everybody's Gone to the Rapture. 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.
Dan Pinchbeck and Jessica Curry, who ran The Chinese Room at the time, fired their whole eight-person crew and fled the company's Brighton headquarters in late July 2017. They stated that they had to close because they couldn't afford to pay their employees in the downtime between projects, but that Pinchbeck and Curry would continue to work on prototypes and raise money in their own time, thus keeping the studio open. The studio's final product, a virtual reality game called So Let Us Melt for Google Daydream, was launched in September. Pinchbeck, Curry, and Andrew Crawshaw were working independently on the studio's next project, 13th Interior, which was intended to break away from the "walking simulator" approach for which the firm had become renowned .
Sumo Group, the parent business of Sumo Digital, paid £2.2 million in August 2018 to acquire The Chinese Room, expanding its UK studio portfolio by four. Curry remained an independent composer for The Chinese Room while co-founder Pinchbeck was named the company's creative director.
Pinchbeck called the acquisition the "end of a chapter" for the studio while they figured out what to work on next. Starting in late summer 2018, The Chinese Room re-staffed, bringing on veteran developers Ed Daly as studio director and John McCormack as art director. Dear Esther launched on iOS on 30 September 2019. On 12 June 2020, The Chinese Room released its first Apple Arcade title Little Orpheus to positive reviews. As of October 2020, the .