A common refrain in reviews of The Witness is the plea to solve each puzzle on your own, to not ask for help or look up solutions, that the game is designed to teach you things in ordered steps and that it is important not to skip a step. While, yes, this is true, that doesn’t mean those steps are easy. What will inevitably happen is that you’ll solve a series of simple puzzles, and then you’ll try to solve the next puzzle in the exact same way that you solved the previous puzzles, only this time your solution won’t work. You’ve done something wrong. You’ve misunderstood the concept. Time to go back and reanalyze your work.
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I think that people are mostly good. I think the world is—generally—becoming a better place, and that we have the capacity to fix most of the problems that ail our society. I think that one day mankind will take to the stars and that our stories will long outlive our little star. I’m a hopeful person.
At the same time, it’s hard not to succumb to despair, be it the petty kind that you might feel each time Donald Trump appears on national television, or the existential kind that you feel when you’re in a crowded space (Times Square might as well be a black hole on the face of the earth). If there’s a word for the simultaneous feeling of hope and despair, it’s in a language that I don’t speak—or one that I have long forgotten.
I press start, and I’m in motion. I’m playing Need for Speed: Most Wanted and the game opens in medias res in an Aston Martin motoring down the freeway. The camera swings around and locks into position behind the car, at which point I instinctively squeeze the right trigger.
I am in control.
Since our podcast has gone from a weekly publication every Monday to a biweekly Monday posting in more recent years, my wife had a brilliant idea. Why not post some of our substantial backlog on our off weeks?
Since Valentine’s Day is just over the horizon, it seemed most appropriate to kick off our first “Best of…” podcast with an episode from way back in 2010 in which we focused our attention on how love, sex, and relationships are represented in video games.
Shooting a gun in a game is a simple action. You aim a cursor at a target and press a button to pull the virtual trigger. It’s a simple action, but when you look at a standard controller and all the buttons used for shooting, the action quickly gets complicated. Suddenly there’s a button for looking down the sights of the gun, for reloading the gun, for crouching, for switching guns, for activating a secondary function of the gun. Then, there’s all the complexities not linked to a button: knowing when to reload, how fast each gun reloads, how recoil affects your aim, that looking down the sights improves accuracy, that crouching improves accuracy, that moving decreases accuracy, that running prevents you from shooting, etc., etc. Seen this way, the modern shooter is actually a damned complicated beast.