Monthly Archives: June 2016

The innate urge to play games

I had a fascinating chat with Phil Robinson of the Museum of Games and Gaming while I was at Play Expo Blackpool the other month, and it really got me thinking about where this urge to play video games actually comes from. Sure, games are fun, but why are they fun?

Phil put together an exhibition called ‘Why do we play?’ for the expo, taking on the formidable task of dissecting the evolutionary reasons for why we play games, and creating a timeline of gaming that stretches from the earliest strategy games scratched in sand right up to the sophisticated video games of today. And there are a surprising number of parallels that can be drawn between those early games and our modern equivalents.

I wrote up the interview for Kotaku UK – you can take a look at the full thing here: 

How Our Caveman Instincts Explain Why We Play Video Games

Phil Robinson of the Museum of Games and Gaming

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Brexit, a.k.a. “What the hell just happened?”

I spent most of yesterday in shock after discovering that the UK had voted to leave the European Union. In the weeks leading up to the election, it seemed clear that the Remain camp was in the lead, and despite a late surge in support for the Leave campaign, I went to bed on Thursday feeling reassured that we would probably stay in the EU. Waking up to the news that we had in fact voted to leave, that David Cameron has resigned as Prime Minister and that the stock markets were plunging, possibly signalling the start of a new recession, left me wandering around all morning like a zombie, as Mrs Merriweather and I exchanged expressions of disbelief.

"YOU MANIACS!" This was pretty much how I felt yesterday.

“YOU MANIACS!” This was pretty much how I felt yesterday. But with the Palace of Westminster in the place of the Statue of Liberty, obvs.

As you’ve probably guessed already, this post has absolutely nothing to do with video games, but the events of the last few days have left me in such a profound state of grief that I felt the need to express some of it. Yesterday saw the first stages of the grieving process – shock followed by denial. I kept wondering whether it was all just a mistake, and surely with such a narrow margin of victory – 52% to 48% on a 72% turnout – they’d almost certainly have to hold another referendum. But this is just clutching at straws – Brexit is happening, even though practically no MPs or senior figures wanted it.

The denial eventually gave way to anger at the people who voted Leave. This was compounded by reading stories about Leave voters who didn’t really understand the consequences of voting Leave and now regret it. In a way it’s hardly their fault – the Leave and Remain campaigns were universally dreadful, full of scaremongering, exaggeration and downright lies, with very few considered facts. (One particularly egregious lie was that the NHS would get £350 million a week if we left the EU, a falsehood that was plastered across the Remain ‘Battle Bus’ but that was quickly backpedalled on after the election.)

As a result of the lack of reliable information, it seems that many people just ‘voted with their gut’. It was telling that one of the trending search terms on Google yesterday was ‘What is the EU?’, which suggests that many people voted to leave something that they didn’t understand in the first place.

In a way it doesn’t surprise me that the UK voted to leave the European Union. Growing up, I was surrounded by lots of anti-Europe sentiment, and the country is characterised by ‘island thinking’ – indeed, the Germans call us ‘Inselaffen’, or ‘island apes’. (Whether they mean that in a good-natured way or not probably depends on who’s saying it.) As I got older and went to university, I noticed the anti-Europe sentiment less and less, chiefly because I was surrounded by people who were generally liberal, often foreign and who took great advantage of the benefits of free travel and work in the European Union. It’s telling that the two places that I’ve lived in the UK since leaving university – first London and now Scotland – were also the two regions (along with Northern Ireland) that voted to remain in the EU. I think one of the reasons that I’m so shocked about the Leave result is that I have surrounded myself with people who naturally want to vote Remain. But there’s clearly real anger against Europe in other parts of the country, anger that I haven’t been aware of in my daily life.

Meanwhile, in Germany...

Meanwhile, in Germany…

But I’m angry now. It feels like my future – and more importantly, my son’s future – has been wrested away from me by people who may or may not have understood the real consequences of what they were voting for. An inevitable next step will be yet another referendum on whether Scotland will leave the union. With Scotland voting by 62% to 38% to stay in the EU, and with anti-Westminster feeling already high in the country, it seems almost a foregone conclusion that Scotland will break away in order to retain its EU ties. So soon I may need a passport to visit my relatives in England.

Then there’s the economic fears – $2 trillion has already been wiped off the markets, and it seems like we’re heading into another recession, all because people wanted to ‘take back control’, whatever that means. And god knows what’s going to happen to the housing market, which means our future plans will probably be put on hold as we wait to see what happens.

Both Mrs Merriweather and I have spent time studying and working in Europe, and it makes me sad that our son won’t have the same opportunities that we did. It’s particularly galling that it seems to be mostly older people who voted in favour of Leave, when they’re not the ones who will have to deal with the consequences. Around 60% of over-65s voted Leave, whereas 75% of 18-24-year-olds voted Remain. Retirees with their own home will be affected very little by the vote, but the economic fallout and loss of EU rights will have a massive effect on people who are just starting their careers.

“Silly Walk Off a Cliff,” by Barry Blitt (and yes, John Cleese was in favour of Leave).

“Silly Walk Off a Cliff,” by Barry Blitt (and yes, John Cleese was in favour of Leave).

I have several friends who work in places like Germany and France right now, and no doubt they’re worrying about their future and whether they will have to seek citizenship to remain in their jobs (and to keep the benefits they currently enjoy as EU citizens). Many of my friends in Edinburgh are from mainland Europe, and there’s a pervading feeling of uncertainty about their future status. Basically, no one knows what’s going to happen – we’re on a roller-coaster into the unknown.

So, I’m still pretty angry at the moment. No doubt at some point this will resolve itself into resignation, the final stage of the grieving process. But there’s still plenty of anger floating around the country at this point, and it feels like the UK is more divided now than at any point I can remember. In the nineties, politics moved towards the centre, but in the past decade we’ve seen parties – and people – shift further and further to either the left or the right. Especially so now, with the resignation of David Cameron leaving the Tories in the hands of the right-wingers.

With such deep division, I can only envisage more uncertainty and conflict ahead.

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How the Kick Off Revival sausage is made

For many years Sensible Soccer was the long-dormant football game I dreamt about in a haze of nostalgia. That was until ten years ago in 2006 – along with two other blokes at work – I was eagerly awaiting the revival of the series via a new entry from developer Kuju. I still remember the days leading up the release; emails shared in the office about our ye olde experiences with one of the pinnacles of video game soccer. At least the one not named Pro Evolution Soccer 5, which was a slight obsession of ours at the time. Excitement does not do justice to the emotions we were feeling on Sensible Soccer eve.

And disappointment doesn’t do justice for our reactions the day after. I remember the despondent look on one of the lads’ faces as he aired his grievances with the not-so-great rebirth of the series. Shaking his head he couldn’t find the words to say anything more than “So. What the bloody hell happened there, then?”. I vowed never to be lulled into a false sense of nostalgia-fuelled security from that day forward.

But here I am almost a decade to the day later waiting in anticipation for another classic football game revival.

Kick Off was the other  ye olde football game in constant rotation in my house. My brother and I would challenge each other until our fingers were demented and callus-covered or frustration boiled-over into a bit of good-old-fashioned rough and tumble on the bedroom floor. Problem was – for me at least – for years I wasn’t much good at the game.  And try as I might I just could never master the game well enough to beat my brother.

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Days and nights were spent honing my skills against the computer. With every goal my skills would grow and along with it my confidence. Kick-Off was a fast paced game that required skill, precision – and practice. Sure it wasn’t as friendly as Sensible Soccer, but there was a certain accomplishment that came from mastering it that was unrivalled.

Finally after a decent-length training montage, I beat my brother once. And then twice. And then probably a third time. I had ‘mastered’ Kick Off.

And so here I am, a solid two decades, later waiting for the aptly named Kick Off Revival to relive former glories. After stumbling upon the watching the developer’s diary I’m confident I won’t be disappointed.  Now, and I’m not usually one who wants to know how the sausage is made, but Dino Dini’s development journey for Kick Off Revival is story worth hearing. And simply as reassuring as it gets that Revival will rekindle old love.

Two words:”One Button”.

As I’ve written before on here before, Dino Dini is nothing short of a legend to those of us who grew up with home computers – namely those beginning with “Commodore” – in the 1980’s an 1990’s. So it’s good to know he hasn’t forgotten his roots.

See Dino Dini’s Developer Diaries below. 

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I’m bored of 2D platformers

I was playing through Yoshi’s Woolly World the other day, and about halfway through the second world I put the controller down and decided I’d probably never come back to it. There’s nothing wrong with the game per se – and I love the way everything has been lovingly reworked in wool – but I just realised that I wasn’t particularly enjoying myself. It felt like I was going through the motions.

In short, it felt like I’d seen everything in the game many, many times before.

Love the wool. Not that bothered about the game.


Woolly World came in for a bit of criticism at its release for failing to offer much innovation over its various prequels, so you could argue that it’s just not a particularly original game. But then again, I felt the same way after playing, and quickly abandoning, Yoshi’s Island on the DS. And I barely made any headway into Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D before I gave it the old heave ho, bored to tears. Most damningly of all, I’ve barely played New Super Mario Bros. U since I bought it at the launch of the Wii U some three years ago. I’ve played the game with friends, who seemed to love it, but I’ve been unable to work up much enthusiasm for playing it solo. And we’re talking about a game that’s supposedly one of the best in the 2D platforming genre.

Basically, I’ve come to realise that I just don’t like 2D platformers that much – a realisation that actually came as a bit of a surprise, since some of my first and fondest gaming memories are playing through the first three Super Mario Bros. games with my sister. I spent hours happily exploring each level of those games, so there was clearly a time when I loved 2D platformers. Nowadays though? Meh.

I think my apathy is partly due to the fact that the mechanics of these games have barely changed in the 30-odd years I’ve been playing them. It’s still the same old mix of moving platforms, spikes, slippy-slidey ice worlds and head jumping. I suppose you could argue that there are plenty of games whose mechanics have barely changed (beat ’em ups, for one) but that still remain relevant; however, with 2D platformers I feel like I’m playing the same game again and again and again, just with a different skin each time.

You know that feeling you get when everyone else loves something and you just can’t see the appeal?


Thanks to the resurgent indie scene and smart phone proliferation, gaming is awash with 2D platformers at the moment, but I don’t think you can blame this glut of games for the staleness of the genre – its corpse was going off long before the indies resurrected it. I’m as surprised as anyone by how 2D platforming has undergone such a resurgence – once Super Mario 64 came out, I, like everyone else, saw the writing was on the wall for 2D platforming. But against all odds, it has clung onto life. Yet even back in the nineties, it was starting to feel like all of the decent ideas for platformers had been used up. There are only so many ways to skin a cat, after all.

I can already feel the readership of AMAP swelling to launch an impassioned defence of 2D platformers, and I’ll certainly concede that there are a few gems among the tiresome 2D fool’s gold. For example, I recently played Never Alone, which is a platformer based around  the Inupiaq culture of Northern Alaska, and I was captivated by it. The mix of gaming and cultural insights felt refreshing, and the artwork was beautiful, plus I liked the way that you were required to switch with your fox companion to solve puzzles. The setting, too, was brilliantly original. But then I realised that I liked it despite it being a 2D platformer. It was a wonderfully inventive idea wrapped around the decaying skeleton of decades-old game mechanics.

It feels a bit sad to realise that a genre I grew up with just doesn’t hold any excitement for me any more. But on the other hand, it’s almost a relief to let go. 2D platformers are a bit like an old friend from school who still wants to hang out every once in a while, even though you now have nothing in common. I feel like I’ve just plucked up the courage to delete them from my Facebook friends list.

Never Alone is a wonderful game – just a shame about all the platforms.

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Microsoft, I’m so confused

Whereas Sir Gaulian has been revelling in the resurrection of some of his old favourite games at this year’s E3, I’ve been struggling to find much to get excited about, with the exception of the surprisingly different take on Zelda that Nintendo has been showcasing. However, one thing that everyone seems to be talking about is Microsoft’s announcement of Project Scorpio and their new strategy whereby all Xbox ‘exclusives’ will also be available on PC. And to top it all off, they’ve announced the Xbox One S, a slimmer version of the Xbox One with slightly more power.

I’m just a bit baffled by it all.

Project Scorpio - so what's this all about, then?

Project Scorpio – so what’s this all about, then?

I mean, what’s my incentive to buy an Xbox One S, when a more powerful Xbox will be available in 18 months’ time? Presumably it would be wiser to wait for the better machine. But then again, the statements coming from Microsoft seem to suggest that Scorpio users will only notice much of a difference if they have a 4K TV. Furthermore, they’ve said that there won’t be Scorpio exclusives, so Xbox One buyers ‘won’t get left behind’. But then what’s the point of upgrading if the games won’t be significantly different? Rich Stanton makes a good summation of the mixed messages coming out of Microsoft’s slack mouth here, and Mr Biffo makes some good points in this article. Basically, it’s hella confusing.

I presume it will work a bit like the New Nintendo 3DS – slightly more powerful specs will mean faster loading times and improved frame rates. But the New 3DS also boasted other features that made it a worthy upgrade, such as eye-tracking 3D and an extra thumbstick. What will Scorpio have, apart from tarted-up versions of Xbox One games?

I also presume that the huge boost in power will add massively to the price – the Digital Foundry report suggests that it will cost significantly more than the PlayStation Neo. So for all that extra cash, I’m guessing that buyers will want some serious improvements in their games, not just slightly shinier versions of XBone titles. I’m also guessing that the massive spec upgrade is chiefly to do with enabling Microsoft to jump on the VR bandwagon. But buying the Scorpio in addition to a VR set-up is going to be massively expensive in comparison to the rival VR offering from Sony, which will work on a bog-standard PS4. But maybe Microsoft’s VR system will work on the basic Xbox One as well? Who knows – it’s all a bit unclear at the moment.

I’m also baffled by the news that all Xbox One games will be on PC as well – which seems to be removing any reason for PC owners to buy an Xbox. It would make more sense if a PC exclusives were made available on Xbox One – for example, if Steam could be brought to Xbox. That would be a huge plus point for the console, as I’m sure there are plenty of people like me who want to play more PC-exclusive titles but really can’t afford/can’t be arsed to assemble a PC gaming rig. I’ve got a basic laptop with a few Steam games on it, but I barely play them – the laptop is for work, I do my gaming on consoles in the living room.

I have to say though, the Xbox One S is a marked improvement on the design of the Xbox One. Nice grills, MS.

I have to say though, the Xbox One S is a marked improvement on the design of the Xbox One. Nice grills, MS.

In summary, will someone please explain what the hell Microsoft’s strategy is here? Judging by the confusing and seemingly contradictory statements from Xbox’s Phil Spencer and other Microsoft representatives, even the company doesn’t seem to be entirely sure (it’s eerily reminiscent of the PR nightmare the company faced after the Xbox One reveal three years ago). The early announcement of Project Scorpio will surely make people think twice about buying an Xbox One over the next 18 months. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to hold back on Scorpio to give sales of the Xbox One S a chance? Or even hold back the Xbox One S to launch with or just after Scorpio as an ‘entry-level’ machine? And why cripple your console sales by saying your exclusives won’t be exclusive any more?

And, perhaps most importantly, what’s the point of Scorpio anyway? It’s seemingly designed for people with 4K TVs – but hardly anyone has one of these, and I’d be surprised if there was a massive stampede to get them by the end of 2017. A recent Polygon analysis pointed out that “you’d need to sit no farther than 6.5 feet from a 50-inch TV to be able to see any benefits of 4K resolution over 1080p”, so really they’re only going to appeal to the tech-savvy and people who sit with their noses pressed against the telly. HDTVs took off rapidly because they were a huge improvement over CRT TVs and standard definition. I very much doubt there will be a similar rush to upgrade to 4K. Which could leave Scorpio with a very tiny audience share indeed – and why I suspect that this talk of ‘no Scorpio exclusives’ will quickly be outed as an untruth.

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Everything old is new again (and I love it)

KratosI am a creature of habit. I like routine so much in fact that if I don’t walk the same way around the Parliamentary triangle at lunch, or eat the same thing at the same time each day, I feel like it puts my entire day into disarray.  It’s a strange little character trait to be sure – and a pervasive one at that – but thankfully not one that has tended to encroach on how I play video games.

I’ve written before about how I am envious of the types of people that play the same game year in-year out.  The people that buy FIFA in September of every year like clockwork and play for an entire year without even so much as a wandering eye, for example. To them the incremental improvements are enough to keep them on their toes – if they even notice them that is – as long as it doesn’t compromise the core experience they’ve enjoyed for the past however many years.  Predictability is what these people are after and the $70 in cold hard Aussie dollars is worth the price of entry.  Oh how I long to be one of the FIFA faithful.

Although I may be closer than I think.

The reemergence of more than a handful of familiar games at E3 over the last couple of days has cemented an important thing about what I want from video games – something that I came to realise both while I was recently having guilty fun with the DOOM reboot(?) and while I play through 2006’s Dead Rising and its lesser Wii spin-off Dead Rising: Chop ’til you Drop more often (and regularly) than I care to admit.

CTUDWii

When it comes to gaming I’m not after anything new or anything revolutionary. In fact, when it comes to videogames I’m after the familiar – reboots of classic games, retakes on old names, remasters of old faves.

I had a conversation with a friend of mine this afternoon who had been watching the events of E3 unfold over the last few days. When he asked what looked good, I started rattling off a few little ditties that had caught my eye: Crash Bandicoot 1-3 Remastered, Dead Rising 4, God of War and Forza Horizon 3 featuring right at the top of my list.

He agreed and we started lamenting the fact that there was no sign of Red Dead Redemption 2 yet.

But it was at this point that I had a vivid flashback to a conversation I’d had with another friend 10 years ago at practically the same time of year in pretty much exactly the same spot.

Dead Rising.

God of War II.

Forza Motorsport 2.

It was an odd realisation that with all the shiny new game experiences that are unleashed upon the world ever year, the things I’m craving are ones that I’ve played before.  The God of War reboot looks to be an interesting take on a familiar theme.  Dead Rising 4 sees a welcome return of Frank West and the Willamette Parkview Mall that I love so dearly. And Forza Horizon 3 is a prettier version of an iteration of a spin-off I’ve been enjoying for the better part of my adult life.

Quite simply I would be happy playing new versions of old games or old ideas ad infinitum.  I’ve been a relatively strong advocate for remakes and remasters as a way to introduce old games to new audiences, I realised that I’d just be happy to be reliving old favourites rather than embracing new characters and mechanics.

Combine the fact that I’m a terribly nostalgic person with the fact that I don’t deal well with change and you’ve normally got a recipe for disaster. But if you’re the video game industry willing to draw from the well just one more time, well I’m pretty much your ideal customer.  So while everything old is new again, I could not be happier.

DeadRising

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Talos Principle sent me into an existential Crisis

60a973cdc93f4af5db265ca3bc84890dI still distinctly remember the hours that followed walking out of the cinema after seeing “Moon”. Still struggling to come to terms with the notion of ‘created memories’, while walking along the iconic Chapel Street the friend I caught the film with started to entertain the notion of teleportation, referring to an article he’d read recently. And while it was a stunning day in Melbourne – the sun searing on the asphalt as Melbourne’s deeply entrenched culture freely flowing all around – I was too busy contemplating “it all” to take much notice. And by “it all” I really mean it. He may not have known it at the time, but this innocuous conversation between two friends on a high after watching a bloody good film, has haunted me in the years since.

It started off innocently enough.

“So teleportation is possible, but with one pretty significant caveat” he said.

I expected it to be something small. You know, a sort of ‘technicality’ that would render it a rather pointless technology, even if it were feasible.

“What, I can’t choose where or when I teleport to?” I snickered, gesturing down a side street that got us to his house quicker.

He laughed off my dismissive response, “No. I’m pretty sure it’s okay between fixed points in time and space. It’s just that it’d kill you”

“Right” I laughed, “so it doesn’t really work at all”.

“Yeah it does. Your genetic makeup and all your memories are transported to the destination. It’s just that it is a carbon copy of the ones that left. You are at the destination – or at least everything you are. But the you you knew isn’t you – if you catch my drift” he explained, obviously feeling a bit more comfortable with the subject that I was, “would you do it?”

“I’m not sure mate, I mean it’s not really me, is it?” I told him, still not really quite sure what to make of the situation.

“But you wouldn’t know,” he asserted, “the you at the other end is for all intents and purposes, you. It’s still you, and it thinks it is the you that transported from the other end” he asserted.

“But it’s not. It’s not me at all. In fact I no longer exist.”

I had to think hard about what I’d just said and so the rest of the walk back to his apartment was a decidedly silent and somber affair.  The idea that I could exist – or rather a carbon copy of me with my memories and my genetic make up – without it necessarily being “me” twisted my mind in impossible ways. Like Moon’s thematic undertone, he had twisted my ideas of what being a conscious human being with memories meant, and whether “me” as I know it is unique to any other clone of me that could theoretically exist. It was fair to say I was probably the most confused I’ve ever been.

My recent play through of The Talos Principle – where you play a cyborg avatar tasked with solving puzzles in eden-like worlds – gave me very similar confused feelings that verged on an existential crisis. Being forced to question my own views on consciousness and humanity wasn’t something I was prepared for necessarily, rather expecting that the game’s puzzles would test my brain in a more lateral way. And there were times where the game’s ‘chambers’ – somewhat reminiscent of Portal’s setup – did stretch the grey-matter to find a solution. After all organising blocks, light beams, fans and ‘ghosts’ in a series of increasingly difficult and multi-staged puzzles certainly isn’t for the dedicated. But it was the narrative that drove the game forward – namely my interactions with seemingly sentient computer terminals called “Milton”, the game’s equivalent of “GERTY” – that at times kept me frozen on the spot in search of answers. Answers that I ultimately cannot answer.

While the puzzles are what you strive to complete, Milton is your main interface with the game’s world, the key catalyst for your inevitable distrust of voice-in-the-sky Eloheim, and a database of all of the world’s knowledge and carrier of the world’s story. It is through accessing these terminals between puzzles that you discover most of what the game’s world is as you try and discover what the purpose of this world is.

It is no happy accident that these conversations Milton also happened to be the part that forced me not only to think philosophically about not just the game’s world but also our world more broadly. Through positing questions and putting forward ideas, Milton effectively shapes your view of that world, and puts forth a reasonable set of assumptions on which to base your own opinions. In the beginning Milton was happy to hold my hand through the world and tell me what to believe.

And so at the start, I felt utterly comfortable with the game’s surface-level treatment of philosophy.   The fact that Dr. Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park is as close as I’ve ever come to any sort of philosophical thinking really meant that anything deeper than surface level philosophical questions were a bit beyond my comprehension.  “Life finds a way” was about as deep as I’ve ever needed to delve and so an early reference to Jeff Goldblum’s famous line lulled me into a (false) sense of security.

TalosPrinciple(3)

But as I went on, I was absolutely outclassed and outmuscled by the game’s narrative approach to positing philosophical questions. Upon being asked by Milton a series of questions about what it is to be ‘human’ it was fast to point out the inconsistencies in my responses:

TalosPrinciple(1)

It may have been all smoke and mirrors, but being lectured on humanity by a computer within a computer was unsettling, particularly when my views on it seemed to be so inconsistent. If it was all a ruse, it was a bloody good one, and it had successfully made me question by core belief system and cognitive thought processes. But things only go more complex from there and it didn’t hold back on the philosophy, remembering everything I’d answered to that point and probing more deeply as the game went on, in a way that was more informed than a logic test:

TalosPrinciple(2)

Knowing that I was empathising with a cyborg avatar to convince an artificial intelligence of its humanity automatically put into question my own beliefs about what it mean to be a ‘conscious human’ – but the fact that Milton was never shy to point out the incongruous nature of my responses to its questions made me start to question whether I may not be as consistent and rational as I thought. Not to mention whether I had a thoroughly anthropocentric view of consciousness.  After all, what really is the difference between me and a frog? Touche, Milton.

Then he started to question my ‘purpose’ in the game world, and in fact, whether there was anything beyond the world. The “god-like” Eloheim had promised me everlasting life if I were to follow his instructions, but Milton was calling into question my faithfulness to the voice in the sky. It was an obvious question – but one that I usually take fore granted in video games – but could it really be the case that the sole purpose of the world and indeed me was to solve the challenges the game throws at me. It was as much a subtle commentary on game design as it was on the wider world, but one that distilled neatly into one simple question: what is the purpose of this world?

The Talos Principle asked questions I’d never considered before and I wasn’t prepared for them. These questions haunted me vividly for the days while – and the weeks after – playing the game. Like a broken record they’d repeat in my brain: “what is my purpose?” and “why is this world this way”?  And each day I’d be no closer to an answer than I was the day or week before. The game may have been fantastical fiction, but its questions were equally relevant in my own context.

Confusion was beginning to spiral into an existential crisis of sorts – one brought on by a video game no less. If it was the intention of developers to get players thinking more deeply, the Talos Principle had done its job.

But while facing a faux existential crisis is obviously not something to brush off, I find some comfort being forced to question ‘what it is to be human’ or ‘what it is to be “me”‘.  If it has felt a bit like I’m rambling incoherently, it’s because I am, because none of it makes any sense to me.  It wasn’t that I didn’t have the wherewithal to overcome its many hurdles and crash my way through to the credits of the game – quite the contrary – I finished up playing the game practically over the course of a weekend. It was that a video game had asked me questions that I’d never felt compelled to answer before.  And that I know in my heart of hearts I’ll likely never be able to answer.

In the same way that Moon is a great piece of filmmaking that gives me goosebumps whenever I watch it, The Talos Principle is the sort of game experience I’m not sure I’ll ever leave behind.  Not just because of its ‘workmanlike’ approach to how it’s puzzles are designed in such a way that they gradually build your understanding of how you can solve them, but because it forced me to actually think about the world in a more deep and meaningful way. I am not a religious man, but having an answer to these sorts of existential queries must be a big appeal for people, even if it does seem outlandish at times. The fact that the world all takes place in some sort of an artificial construct even seems like a logical conclusion the more you think about it – an idea that Elon Musk seems to champion while he’s not saving the world from itself from somewhere in California.

If nothing else, The Talos Principle opened my eyes to the importance of the theory of knowledge, in broadly understanding the world. I have a friend at work who likes to tease me about solipsism and the fact that I can’t prove that he or anything else for that matter exists. I usually laugh it off in the same way I’d laugh at trying to quantify the size of the universe. But The Talos Principle made that line of questioning make sense, and I’m grateful for that.

Moon_Film

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