Electron Dance
12Jul/1639

The Unbearable Now: On The Witness

On the theme park island of The Witness, you solve puzzles. Solving puzzles leads to more puzzles. Keep working. Keep digging. Keep solving. Again and again and again. But this process cannot continue forever. Where does The Witness end? And why?

At last, it is here: The Unbearable Now is a spoiler-filled interpretation of The Witness (Thelka, 2016) that’s been months in the making. It is laced with a few choice expletives, but definitely no gore. Or nudity.

Watch the film below or direct on YouTube.

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  1. I never ended up doing the challenge section, because after being whisked away by Willy Wonka’s glass elevator I realised that the tunnel itself was a puzzle.
    I then completed the first area again, obliviously walked through the gate, reloaded after realising what I had just done and experienced the ending.

    After that I went back to my more complete save and unlocked a few of the videos.
    I thought I saw enough to understand some of what the game was getting at, so I was satisfied with that.

    I had read a little about the tapes describing the existence of the island, what it all meant, the various archetypes represented by the voices on the island etc. but never got around to working that out myself.

    I did come to the conclusion that the island existed as a creation of from it’s own parts.
    There’s the quarry for all the stone sculptures, the swamp for all the paint, all the plants are coloured through a weird lighting greenhouse, and in the mountain you can see plans and prototypes. I’m sure there are other parts that can be analysed in a similar way.
    I thought it was pretty cool that the game was created both in reality and the narrative.

    Another part of The Witness might be a commentary on the shallowness of touch interactions.
    The puzzles mimic what we are doing with our devices every day and yet all that work we do on a screen is false and those interactions don’t have much connection to solving problems in the physical world.

    Also that specific sound puzzle drove me insane so I ended up using a guide to get through the rest of them.

  2. Gosh I enjoyed this! Thanks!

  3. Pretty much the best take on The Witness I’ve seen. I gave up on it right after entering the mountain because I couldn’t stand not being able to step back from one area and go solve a different one, but I felt there was so much more to see. I think all this time I was waiting for exactly this video.

  4. Excellent video! And I think you make a brilliant narrator, too. Thought so since the video on Bioshock Infinite. Good combination of seriousness, levity, and staring-into-the-middle-distance-ness backed by a pleasant and reassuring voice – it just works really well. I also thought the “video format” to put it one way, was really quite a pleasant, if not completely out-of-left-field surprise.

    On another note, I thought the Witness was, foremost among other things, an extended joke about corporate-sponsored mindfulness meditation. But while that is definitely a present element (as Liz Ryerson correctly points out), it might have loomed larger in my imagination than it really was intended to be, simply by virtue of my recent headspace.

    On the linked essays though (and perhaps I really should keep this to myself… I’m really not sure how to feel here) “Taming the Inexplicable” (Liz Ryerson’s essay) was physically painful to read.
    It’s like some weird postmodern version of the Two Minutes Hate, made even more painful because I actually agree (with a few reservations) both with the system of criticism that underlies it and many of its actual points.
    Sometimes you really have to shoot the messenger, if only in order to preserve the message they are about to roll up into a joint and set aflame.
    But that’s ultimately not very relevant to the video, and now I really think I shouldn’t have brought it up. Hmph.

  5. Whoa, sorry for the late responses to these comments. Today has been a bit of a whirlwind. My inbox has hundreds of emails as I’ve doubled my YouTube subscribers in a day, partly down to a Spanish YouTuber with 44,000 Twitter followers sharing not just this film but previous ones as well.

    Jono

    Interesting idea of the areas all contributing to the island’s construction! The thing about the film is that you can see that I’ve not explained everything. I haven’t touched on questions like why is there a coloured swamp, or what’s going on with that goblet, why is there a painter overlooking the swamp, what are the people in the castle all about. There’s way more information to parse here and that’s not even counting all the different audio logs. I think there are more questions we could ask and also answer – but I think I’m satisfied with what I’ve figured out (or believe I’ve figured out).

    I found the rest of the sound puzzles were okay! That one was the worst. (Well, aside from the Shipwreck puzzle which was KURAZEEEE)

    Pippin

    Thanks Pippin! I was more confident that people would enjoy this video but, still, couldn’t help being a bit nervous on release day :)

    David

    Yeah, I think The Witness is very *personality-specific* in that the right combination of doggedness and contemplation is vital. My wife is rushing through it and she’s missing hideous amounts of interesting content in the game. I’m still fascinated to go back in and do banks of panels again. I deliberately made the film so that someone unfamiliar with the game could more-or-less follow it, because my parents were going to be the preview audience :)

    Syster

    The format, as you call it, is a weird accident. Although there are signs I was trying to make work like this going back a few years (look at Fotonica Astonishca in 2012), I was giving up on video work when I made The Five Stages of Starseed Pilgrim as a way to celebrate hitting five years. I was going to do a video essay a la Campster, but it didn’t quite turn out like that. I ended up finding “the format” and rebooting my video work.

    Now I mentioned in one of the newsletters that I wasn’t a big fan of Ryerson’s take on The Witness but it does have interesting ideas, which is why I cited it. Similarly, Joseph Anderson’s video is really great, but I disagree strongly with some of his points, such as taking the marketing blurb as significant information. They all ask different questions and push different buttons and I think that’s great. I cannot really be sure I have pinned down The Witness at all and Joseph Anderson’s more classic interpretation of The Witness about “perspective” is the one I was more wedded to originally, but it wasn’t sufficient. It didn’t seem to connect *everything* so I ended up with a slightly different interpretation.

    Fundamentally, I think what trips up most players is they assume The Witness is answering a question, thus an eternal search on Reddit and other discussion forums for a “real ending” or the “true secret”. But the game is a question mark, drawn in great detail and in vivid colour.

  6. A Witness-obsessed friend of mine found the secret video and showed it to me. He particularly agrees with points 11 and 5.

  7. Ha ha, I’m glad I’m not the only person who felt #5. I know my colleague at work had a similar feeling, that surely something must be going on here. SURELY!!!

    And there lies madness.

  8. Mind = Jonathan Blown

    I still have the game installed – I’m fooling myself I’m gonna finish the monolith puzzles. I just lost interest when I realized there were ten million of them. But I do love taking a stroll and soaking it up from time to time.

  9. Oh no, Ketchua, I gave up on them too. Once you’ve gone through the low-hanging fruit and some of the more tricky ones – “I know it’s there, but how do I get it?” – there’s no more joy in a hotspot collectible hunt. And as I imply, I think the game knows this and refuses to reward you for tracking every last one down: good for you, but you’re goddamn mad.

    But I do feel there are still legion of perspective illusions that I haven’t seen. I can’t be the only one staring at trees in weird places and thinking – what, what is *that*? Really I should just uninstall it now, but it’s been such a part of my life recently it would be like burying a friend.

  10. Absolutely. I’ve been trained by the game to expect more puzzles as reward for solving puzzles, so much so that I’m slightly offended I’m not getting any puzzles for finding the monolith thingies.

    I’m a bit ashamed to admit I haven’t noticed many of the illusions you’ve used in the video. I’ve also read nothing at all about the game, so they really came as a genuine surprise (like the one with the mountain lady and the swamp lady, or the faces in the trees). I can be incredibly daft at times.

  11. The illusions are great. I’ll admit I didn’t find the faces in the tree myself – learnt that one from the web. But I’ve not seen anyone mention the grim reaper at the start of the secret video.

  12. Just stopping by to say I LOVED this video. Weirdly, even though it spoiled so much of the game, it made me want to return to it for a while. I had mostly been playing it on the train, and had put it aside for a bit because it seems to play best at a slow pace.

    Interestingly enough, though I hadn’t gotten through as much of the game as you did, I seemed to stumble on the same conclusion as to what it was “about” – that is to say, not so much direct answers and a singular message, but just a meditation on a topic of truth seeking. Braid seemed to be similar, and I got a sense that Blow was a little frustrated that people seemed to want to get just ONE story out of the whole thing, when really it was sort of a meditation on the concept of regret rather than one single story about the atom bomb or whichever.

    Also, I thought I left this comment last week, but your site doesn’t seem to like Microsoft Edge.

  13. Not sure what’s going on with the comments, Amanda. I submitted a comment from Microsoft Edge earlier and it seemed to get through. Maybe the site just doesn’t like *you*, which is always a possibility we must consider.

    Thanks for watching and enjoying the video, even if you hadn’t finished The Witness yet! I have started wondering whether I’d have a completely different reaction to Braid if I played it again today – would I see more in the textual fragments and picture frames than first time around. But this intent of Blow to produce work which is not just about putting forward a rigid idea or journey to an discrete number of endpoints… but a *dialogue* is anathema to traditional narrative design. It results in something that is oft perceived as arrogance. (Which is an easy mistake to make if you listen/read some of Blow’s words on the videogame design.)

  14. I had the opportunity to see Blow at PAX East and he gave a terrific keynote. I didn’t think at that moment he came across as arrogant at all. He had a genuine enthusiasm for good game design during that speech and he just wanted to enthuse about the great designs done by others. This video seems to have most of the talk if you want to check it out! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwBl7Rnkt78

    I realize that in watching your video with spoilers I was not really playing the game the way he hoped that I would, but I still got a good feeling figuring out how to unlock some of the other in-game videos.

  15. Don’t get me wrong, I’m usually interested in what Blow has to say and I linked to his PAX East keynote in a previous newsletter. But I’m thinking of his previous attacks on traditional game design and how he’s been quoted in the past (The Atlantic interview really drove some people up the wall).

    I’m interested – how do you mean not playing the way Blow would expect you to? Do you mean just fixating on puzzles or something else?

  16. Oh, I guess I missed that you’d linked it! I really liked that talk myself, but yeah, I can see what you mean by the other stuff.
    By the other thing, I mean, I returned to the game after watching an external video about the game, rather than playing the entire game without reading anything externally about it first and experiencing it in the virtuous ‘virgin’ way.

  17. Truth be told, Amanda, my whole play wasn’t entirely virginous either. I fell into spoilers about the ending by accident (I read Ryerson’s piece on The Witness before I’d finished) and had to look up some puzzles that were driving me insane towards the end. (Ruins, shipwreck.)

  18. One thing I haven’t seen you mention: did you ever find the ‘map’ of the island? That discovery (and its oblique but definite usefulness) almost compelled me to 100% completion of audiologs and hidden lines, though I did eventually say “alright, that’s enough.”

  19. Hi StephenM3 – are you referring to the lake? I heard about that but I had already reached the a sense of personal satisfaction by that point.

  20. Yeah. I happened to notice what was going on there fairly early on into my post-ending “further exploration” phase, and it was nearly as big of a “woah holy shit, world opening up before me” moment for me as the first discovery that you can trace lines in the landscape. (But I guess the significance of things like that depends a lot on timing and ordering, which is going to vary a ton from player to player.)

    Then again, I spent way too long exploring without noticing the thing that changes when you get the 11th laser, spending hours scouring the island for a way into that hidden cave. I was using the lake-map to find every last audiolog and triangle puzzle and video vault, and also trying to clear out tons of hidden traces — because while exploring that thoroughly, I had to eventually find the door or puzzle I was missing that would get me into that cave or that tunnel. Eventually I noticed somebody else asking about this very same issue on twitter, and decided to read the rot13’d spoiler in the replies. That’s the only time I got outside help, and it felt terrible.

    I later learned plenty of others just happened to look up while going down that staircase, and it was never even a slightest barrier for them. Oh well!

    This was one of only two major tripping points I had with the game. The other one was that stupid trap door that opens in the jungle, cutting off a critical route. Walking around to the other side of that thing for the rest of the game grated me, and I always hoped I’d find a hidden switch-panel to close it again.

  21. Hi StephenM3, sorry to leave your comment hanging for so long. Unfortunately as I headed towards the real endgame, I started to get things spoiled for me. The trick to opening the cave got spoilt before I had a chance to figure it out myself. However! I couldn’t find a way into the tunnels on top of the cinema etc. for ages because I didn’t know the entrance was at the back of the challenge cave.

    Little Known Fact: I was intending the third act of the film, on the challenge, to show that the challenge was necessary to get access to these extra tunnels with the lock code. Intensive internet searching revealed this was not true at all. The tunnels were always open and the challenge has nothing to do with them. So that’s why I made a last minute change to the script. Instead of – aha! now we have access to these extra secret tunnels! – I switched it for “And there’s a box! But who cares.” It makes people laugh but joke is out of necessity, by accident!

    Ah my God! I should’ve put that point about the jungle trap door in the secret video. That was intensely annoying. One of the few examples of bad irreversibility; normally the game unfolds and opens more routes as you progress.

  22. Did you ever find a map on Island.

  23. One cool thing about playing the game with my kids is that when there’s been a thing that has stumped us and I looked up a hint or that I inadvertently saw a spoiler for, I’ve usually been able to just hang out in the right area or point the camera in the right direction and wait for them to see or solve the thing that I already knew about.

    I had waited to watch your video until we’d solved/found almost everything (including The Challenge and the secret credits area) and we just have a handful of environmental puzzles left to find, and the only thing your video spoiled was at the very end where you watch the boat zip away by itself. Ha! We hadn’t thought of that. On our next play session, I didn’t say a word about it, but as we were exploring, I noticed and pointed out that the boat was the exact same color as another thing on the island. That got the kids thinking about the boat itself, and one of them thought of asking whether we could make the boat go places without being in it. Which was every bit as much fun for me as it would have been to think of it myself.

  24. Urthman

    Spoiler! Neither did I! The env puzzle behind the castle was driving me bonkers and eventually I went to seek help. Doh! I don’t have to be in the boat!! And thus the ending of the film was born…

    Yeah I find that kind of gentle, non-intrusive hinting is a really good way to progress puzzle games with children. Something like English Country Tune, however, tends to be a nightmare.

    Glad you’ve caught up with the film, at last. Don’t forget the addendum film which has a little more.

  25. PS Did you do the challenge? And if so I guess it was you not the children?

  26. We definitely did The Challenge. I do most of the “driving” when we play. The kids (they’re both in high school) would take a photo of the maze map with their phones and give me directions when we got there. A few of the mechanical ones I’d do without their input and there were a couple of categories of puzzle one of them would always solve so fast I’d be blindly following directions. But mostly we’d all be excitedly talking at once about what to do.

    I think it took us at least 10 or 12 tries (not including several early aborts when getting off to a slow start), but we were enjoying it the whole time rather than getting frustrated and wanting to throw the keyboard through the monitor. A++++ would play with kids again.

  27. I really enjoyed your videos, and I especially agree with #20, #19, #17, #15, #12, #5, #4 and totally disagree with #8 and #1. The exception symbol is a good mechanic and was used some good puzzles (I was disappointed it didn’t show up in The Challenge). And we really enjoyed the puzzles in the desert ruin. We liked how the environmental puzzles in the area clued you into the idea of standing where the light would reflect off things a certain way.

    I especially loved how we had to repeatedly revise our hypothesis of how the star puzzles worked (and that door in the village with so many colored stars kept us thinking for a very long time that there was another wrinkle we hadn’t figured out yet–when in fact there was a clever lateral solution instead of an undiscovered rule). That lesson of repeatedly thinking you understand and then discovering that you don’t actually understand seems more profound and valuable than anything I got from the audios or videos.

    In general, playing the game felt to me like listening to Bach’s Goldberg Variations or Mozart’s variations on “Baa Baa Black Sheep.” I was delighted to watch Blow introduce each new puzzle theme and then spin it out into every possible variation. The overgrown monastery area in particular–the way he gradually introduces you to the line-of-sight mechanic is so beautiful, just thinking about it is more enjoyable than most puzzle games I’ve played.

    But I can’t bring myself to care about the “meaning” or story of The Witness. To me, it’s like an astonishingly beautiful hand-crafted puzzle box, it’s existence justified entirely by the exquisite design and craftsmanship.

    Going back to Braid, I think the purple prose is valuable primarily in that it introduces the idea of considering puzzle and game mechanics as metaphors. They weren’t very good reading, but they changed my perception of what I was doing as I played the game in ways that made the game richer and really paid off in the final sequence with the knight.

    I regarded the quotation audiologs not as having direct relevance to the game but just stuff Jonathan Blow likes and thought you might like to listen to as you explore the island. They perhaps encourage a certain frame of mind that’s conducive to taking your time and paying attention to the environment. (Although there is an audio about the value of negative space right before you find a few environmental puzzles formed by the space between tree branches, which we found amusing.) If the game offers something worthwhile about mindfulness or seeing the world or (as I mentioned earlier) being ready and willing to revise one’s hypotheses, I think it’s more in the playing than in drawing particular connections between the audios/videos and the environment or gameplay.

    Similarly, the videos seem more like, “Here’s a cool thing to reward you for learning the rules and solving a particularly tricky puzzle” than some kind of foundational insights about the game. I really doubt that as Blow was building the island and the puzzles he saw it all as related to and culminating in a lecture from Feynman about the value and limits of science. We did enjoy Brian Moriarty’s lecture enough to not mind listening to it a second time (later) to get the puzzle. The “story” audiologs and the video of the game developer waking up we thought were just jokes.

  28. Urthman,

    Ha ha, I don’t know how to interpret that you enjoyed the videos but didn’t care for any meaning of the game! To be frank, for some time I didn’t care either and I refused the game’s attempts to reel me in. I’m pretty sure my wife is getting nothing out of it. But things slowly came together (the “right in front of you” motif was where I really started getting excited) and eventually discovered I had a film to make. But the great thing is you don’t *need* to find meaning to enjoy the game, although this does leave a lot of people pointing at the so-called extraneous stuff and mumbling about pretention.

    On the particular puzzle types I pointed out issues with, I’m acknowledging that these are particularly difficult concepts which cause some people to rage quit on not come back. My wife has actually left the game for some time since hitting a roadblock with the star/sun puzzles (when it suddenly becomes about colours).

    I would also have loved to see the “error tripod” turn up in the challenge. I kind of liked those puzzles the most after I had finished the game.

    I’m going to uninstall the game soon but I enjoyed my time pottering around on the island. Even if I wasn’t always solving puzzles.

  29. I found it interesting hearing about your experience grappling with the possible meanings, even if I didn’t do much grappling with them myself. You tell stories well in your videos.

    That’s a good point about pottering. Once you leave the garden, you can go almost everywhere without solving a single puzzle. Even ignoring all the puzzles, The Witness is one of the most beautiful and nifty walking simulators to poke around and look at the sights.

  30. I just wanted to say that this video is an absolute masterpiece. I have watched it probably somewhere around 20 times now. I find it stimulating, I find it calming, I find it utterly worthwhile. This is an essay in video form, and it is absolutely breathtaking to see how you fit everything together, and how all your points flow. I adore this video, and I thank you so much for making it. Your perspective on the game is fascinating, and I’ve found it aligning with my own (sshh, I’m still playing). I wish this video had even more views, I think it’s superior to every other analysis on the Witness I have seen thus far. I like that this isn’t a game review–it is an analysis. I love that. There is so much potential for videos to examine media like this, to slowly and carefully pick through the different aspects that make something what it is, but it is so rare to find something so deep in a medium that is largely filled with the shallow. Your video makes me step back from the world, from even the Witness, and it makes me think. It makes me consider and move as carefully and as smoothly as your voice does, thinking, contemplating, piecing things together. It’s a wonderful experience.

    Upon watching this, I immediately linked it to one of my friends so she could share this experience with me. Since then, I have been watching it multiple times a week. If I find myself at a loss for what to do, I simply play this video again. It’s wonderful.

    Thank you for creating such a beautiful piece.

  31. Hi Gwen – and welcome!

    Well, I wondered where all the new views were coming from. Mystery solved! It makes me happy to find more people who are on the same wavelength. I didn’t know, for example, if the ending would be picked up as sappy and clichéd (I mean, it is a cliché, right?) or resonate with people who found The Witness special. It’s a relief to find only 4 downvotes on the video after nearly 16K views ;)

    I never intended to write anything about The Witness but it grabbed me. And even though I knew I was finished with the game, I kept playing around with it, because I couldn’t quite bear to leave it. I wanted to capture that joy of being on that island with the film’s ending.

    I originally assumed “it’s about perception I guess?” and after reading a number of articles on The Witness, it seemed many people drew a similar impression or a dead end about its meaning. I think the first insight I had was identifying that the reward for climbing the mountain was a dark and frustrating descent – if the ascent was reaching for truth, then descent was the intellectual collapse brought about by finding that truth to be fool’s gold. And that’s what pushed me to make The Unbearable Now, to peel away some of the game’s impenetrability. It was the same motivation that pushed me to write The Secret of Kairo, explaining a game many players found difficult to decipher.

    I’m still unhappy that I haven’t quite figured out the intentions of all the different statues (there’s a lot going on in the castle!). But the one thing I think the film is missing: connecting The Witness’ story to the West’s co-option of Eastern spirituality making it more palatable and capitalist. This is a better explanation for why the island fails. Spirituality is converted into a way of “doing things” efficiently, solving puzzles, which inevitably become the focus rather than actual spirituality. This still doesn’t provide a decent in-world explanation of why they are there at all, of course, but adds more to the meaning of the game. There’s a possibility, however, that this might have spoilt the upbeat ending of the film. We’ll never know!

    I’m a bit eclectic when it comes to what I make. Into the Black was a reflection on the destruction of exploration in games, The Unbearable Now is an interpretation of The Witness and The Drake Incident is a personal & hopefully funny anecdote from Dark Souls. I will tend to go for what I think is interesting. All I can say is that whatever turns up on the YouTube channel will be unpredictable…

    Thanks for dropping by and saying such nice things!

  32. I loved your video. I made my own interpretation (somewhat cheesy), in the form of a PuzzleScript little game:

    https://www.puzzlescript.net/play.html?p=450750d4891cec7add5bb48d7602a620

  33. Marcos, I feel like this is what The Witness would have been had Mr. Blow put it out around 12 years ago.

  34. After discussing that article on RPS about The Witness today, I have a thought about the “meaning” of The Witness I wanted to run by you.

    The big unavoidable problem with talking about this game is that you can’t come out and tell people about the 3D game mechanic without spoiling one of the best surprises in all of video games.

    So to market this thing, you have to have some vague talk about how the island conceals a mysterious secret. But it would be a spoiler to say that this secret is a puzzle mechanic rather than a narrative story, so people assume that it’s talking about a mysterious story and are disappointed when they realize there isn’t one.

    The “story” of the island, the reason it exists, is that the makers of a puzzle game needed a beautiful and complicated environment in order to construct a really novel and nifty 3D puzzle mechanic. If the island is full of what seems like “environmental storytelling” (like the statues) I think the explanation is simply: (1) we need all sorts of cool architecture in which to hide all the 3D puzzles, and (2) we need players to get the message “There is a Big Secret here to be found” without spoiling the fact that it’s a mechanical secret rather than a narrative secret.

  35. I do not know what’s happened to this page. Something done strange happened.

    However, interesting theory Urthman! I understand *that* puzzle mechanic is actually where The Witness started so it’s not totally outlandish. Against this, I’d posit the obvious: if no one gets *that* as the secret, then it leads to disappointment.

    However, from what I know of the creative process and Blow himself, while I can see the mechanic being the seed, I don’t think it would’ve remained that way. He would’ve kept working it until it was no longer a one trick pony but something with more depth, and coherent with overlapping themes. I can’t quite get behind the idea that Blow would spend 7 years on a island just to showcase one cool mechanic. It would need to be more.

  36. Well, of course I don’t think he made the whole game just for that one “Aha” moment where you notice the second set of puzzles. But I think he did invent come up with a fairly novel puzzle mechanic that was worth making a whole game about. In an industry where artists toil for untold hours to make artwork that players will maybe glance at for a few seconds, he came up with a puzzle mechanic where every polygon–almost every pixel–is an important part of the actual gameplay. I definitely think that justifies having a team that spends years making that artwork reward that level of attention from players. And yet, he can’t say any of that when he’s hyping the game!

    What I think he discovered along the way is that the iPad puzzles were could be interesting enough to be more–much more–than a ploy to simultaneously distract you from and point you toward the 3D puzzles. That they could be integrated into the environment much more thoroughly than your typical Walking Simulator With Puzzles.

    All of that is such rich soil, and Blow’s team cultivated it so well, that The Island justifies its own existence simply as a work of art. I don’t think it really needs to “mean” anything more or have some narrative attached to it.

    Certainly any artwork can have meaning for the people who experience it (the audiologs indicate some lines of thinking making/playing The Witness might inspire) but I think those who are disappointed were mainly just expecting the island to contain different, narrative, kinds of secrets. That expectation is partly genre conventions, but I think a lot of it is that Blow couldn’t really ever talk about what it is that makes The Witness so special and everyone assumed other sorts of things from his evasiveness.

  37. Hi again Urthman! I’m stuck between agreeing with you and agreeing with you. Creative work like games, books, films are often start out with simple ideas and the hard work is building on that to make something more substantial. Not so much hiding the simplicity, of course, but making the whole thing meaty. I remember in Stephen King’s “On Writing” how he talks about *finding* themes in your work and then making them much stronger. This is all par for the course.

    So I can completely agree with you that this mechanic was the seed to that led to greater things, but I don’t feel like that mechanic was actually enough to make a game. A lot of the time, they feel like collectibles: stand in the right place, see it, grab it. I gave up collecting them when some of the more bullshit ones require heroic efforts to obtain. Now that DOES feel like a troll – not so much “clever players” but how far are you willing to go off the cliff for me? And I’m not doing that. I didn’t sign up to follow every one of the swami’s orders but to think for myself.

    I find the puzzle panels much more engaging and I feel they are the core where the additional, secret mechanic is a nice bonus that adds layer and meaning, but it doesn’t work as the main show. It just isn’t cerebral enough for me. Blow no doubt realised early, that this wasn’t enough to carry a game. However, making it a secret mechanic is the genius move because it confers much more emotional and thematic power. (this kind of mechanic has turned up in other games – two that come to mind is an student project called Perspective, the Memory of a Broken Dimension prototype).

    The execution of this is deserving of applause. The experience of being on that island with those puzzles feels so remarkably consistent – everything just gels.

    That people are disappointed in it… well, what can one expect? Nothing is for everyone. And it does throw a few unexpected curveballs at unsuspecting players! But to call us out as falling under the spell of Blow. Frankly, that is what I find offensive.


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