Imagine a walking simulator. Some say they’re boring. Now, imagine it but you have to rack your brain to play it.
Do you remember your first time playing a game? What do you look for in it? Escapism? Looking for experience in a new world. Do you explore open-world games? And if you do, why? Yes! That! Curiosity! You’re curious. Of the world, of what you might find.
So, let’s say, there’s a game that will only be as interesting as far as your curiosity goes. The more curious you are, the more fun the game is. So here you are asking, “A game that is only as interesting as my curiosity? What kind of game is that?” Well, allow me to tell you about, (not to be confused with Outer Worlds), Outer Wilds.
It’s hard to pinpoint what kind of game this is. It’s not a puzzle game. It’s not adventure. It’s not story-rich. It’s not a mystery game. It’s not a space-sim, or even a walking-sim. It’s all of them. Saying it’s one over the other is doing a disservice to the game. It’s that complex.
Allow me to explain… Oh. Obligatory spoiler warning, if you’ve been wanting to play the game, stop watching now. What everyone is saying is actually true. You want to be AS BLIND AS POSSIBLE when jumping in. It’s not that you won’t be able to have fun later, it’s just that you will miss out on the feeling of finding things yourself. I will try my best to not spoil much, like the first 20 minutes of the game. If you’re still not convinced, do watch the video. I hope I can change your mind.
In Outer Wilds, you play as an astronaut recruit of an alien species. There are 6 planets in your system, along with the satellites which you can explore… That’s it. That’s the whole game. “Uhh, that’s not too interesti-” shushush. I did say the game’s as interesting as your curiosity goes.
From what I’ve revealed to you, it sounded like a sim game where all you do is wander. That’s only because I haven’t revealed why you should care. To fork your curiosity, I have to give you an objective. Like if you read a novel, you’ll need a factor that makes you care, makes you “curious.” I haven’t provided that.
This brings me to a discussion that I’d like to make. Do you play any open-world games lately? Do you remember how they play? How they begin? Go here, kill that, go there. One side of the coin (me), people hate it. It felt strict. We never got to the other side though. Or even the middle side.
Now, why did I go on a tangent about open-world game design out of the blue? Because surprisingly, when I see people having trouble getting into this game, it’s always about this. The problem they brought up is “I can’t seem to get into it after playing for X amount of time. I feel confused, I don’t know what to do, I feel very… stupid.”
If you are this type of player, I want to tell you… NO! YOU’RE NOT STUPID. I AM. I should’ve continued with my case on why you should care about the game, but here I am spitting BS about game design, making you itch in your seat, waiting to know what is that factor of curiosity.
See, people like you… The other side of the coin, not necessarily more stupid or liked to be guided like a lamb. I believe you- they are just new or maybe desensitised to the idea of gaming. You/they see gaming as task completion, checking off the list. Mainly because most big games are just like that. Quest log, waypoints. The real time where the player gets involved is only when a fight breaks out, or the walk/ride is needed. Not when governing their own path, their own destination.
Going back to this game, it doesn’t tell you what to do. Because that decision, the power to govern over where to go, on what to do, is given to you in its entirety. This game doesn’t tell you shit. It only gives. Not tell. There’s a mystery inbound, a secret, but ultimately, the one who decides to follow it or not is you. How you uncover it is also up to you.
I still believe that Outer Wilds is a game that anyone, even non-gamers can play and have fun with. We, as humans, are built with curiosity. And this game relies heavily on that. It’s in our nature to be curious. Of course, we’re all curious about different things, and the best way to learn something new is not by being taught by a teacher, but by discovering and messing around yourself, by being curious.
That is why I think this is THE game for everyone. Unlike other major games (ER/BOTW) where on top of being curious you’ll need skills to play them, Outer Wilds only uses a factor that is already within each of us. And, like other games, it rewards us for it accordingly. It’s like a big puzzle, where you don’t know where to start, but the more you piece them together, the more it makes sense in the bigger picture.
The only problem people could run into is to find that first spark or to keep that spark long enough for the next big piece (which to be honest, I don’t think is a problem. The next piece of Outer Wilds is always a big piece. Whatever you find, whatever you learn will ALWAYS help you understand the bigger picture. The devs know how to scatter major plot points in a way that makes no matter what you do to always be worth your while.)
And yes, I did just lie to you that I will spoil the game. Instead I went on rambling about the curious nature of the homo sapiens. But, I’m a man of my word, and I shall fulfil my promise. Now, join me in this cut 20 minutes journey of Outer Wilds. (Last warning, Spoilers.)
You wake up under the sight of a giant. Vast and beautiful darkness of space aside, you sit down and greeted by… I don’t know what they are to you. Slate told you to get the launch codes. Today is the day you’ll finally depart. You roast a marshmallow to celebrate. Oh you burnt it. You went to the village, meeting many of your kind. They’re as excited as you are! Congratulating you. Some still reminisce over the past, how you’ve been. Wait, it’s (the launch pad) what? You can also say goodbye, or play around a bit. You played with a model spaceship to get a feel off the real one. You can check on the mysterious landmark that can and will definitely kill you. Can’t be seen by the naked eye, but hey, at least it looks good on picture. You helped Gosan on repairing a satellite inside the planet, which also gives you a good reminder on how to traverse through space. You put on the borrowed space suit and went into the cave. Indicators show the gravity goes lower and lower. You felt lighter. You jumped higher. Then, zero-G. Time to repair that old stuff. Done? You went out and tell em’ the deed is done. You continued to the observatory where you’ll meet Hal. Hal is the one who designed the archaeology translator on you. They planted their eyes on the goat statue right at the door. Nerds gotta be nerds. You looked around the museum. Important as they are, your excitement fills you full. You meet with Hornfels where you’ll be given the launch codes. They ask what will you do once you’re up there. You answer… whatever. You hastily return to your ship until stopped by the statue just now. You tell Hal what happened and- Yes, they think you’re crazy. Still, they told you something if you wanna follow whatever just happened. In any case, you need to get off this land and enter the deep dark void first if you wanna do anything. Finally, it’s time. You put on the launch codes to the lift, hoisting you up to the launching pad. There she is. Your tiny ship that’s definitely not accurate to our Newtonian physics. You take a look at the scene one last time before you depart. In you go. There’s a computer to log all your adventures, obviously it’s still empty. Then you buckle yourself up. Ready to launch captain! Goodbye to our green home, hello to the deep and- Hold on, is the sun looking red to you? The sun expanded in real-time right at your face, until it collapses unto itself then lets out a massive nova that burns everything on the system, you included. But you didn’t feel pain. Nor burn. It was quick. You can still feel your eyes, your bodies. There’s a warm cozy heat around. You opened your eyes, and you wake up under the sight of a giant.
Like the theme of the video is, I’m not here to force you to do anything. I’m here just hoping that perhaps I can light that little spark in you. And if I failed, I just have to believe that your curiosity lies elsewhere. It’s not here, but somewhere, out there, there’s something that will make that little light flicker. I hope you find it, traveller. And I hope we’ll meet again beyond the stars.