Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Antichamber - 2/20 hours

Ow! I think I sprained my sense of reality.

Let me get this out of the way first - I respect this game immensely. It is clever, inventive, and utterly unique. It is filled with  delightful, dry humor, and the way it deconstructs the standard conceits of video game exploration and world-building is marvelous to behold. I think you could easily argue that this belongs on the list of all-time classic games.

Yet I can't recall the last time I was so miserable playing a video game (and I am saying this with full awareness of the fact that I just got done playing Secret of the Magic Crystals).

Antichamber will manipulate you. It will tell you one thing and show you another, and sometimes you need to believe your eyes and sometimes you need to believe your head and other times neither will be right, and you'll have to do something completely off the wall. It doesn't feel arbitrary, exactly, but the connection between cause and effect is often whimsical, and there's no real way to suss out before hand what you'll need to do (perhaps this game is my penance for agreeing with David Hume in principle, but failing to take his words into my heart).

What this amounts to is an experience that hits me straight in my gaming Achilles' Heel - I don't like feeling stuck. I don't like not knowing what to do next. I can put up with just about anything if I can just manage to wrap numbers around it. If I can break big tasks down into a series of little ones. If I can make estimates and count down time. Uncertainty, however, kills me.

I kind of worry that this makes me sound like a wimp, like I fall apart whenever I'm pushed out of my comfort zone, but I honestly do feel disconnected from my usual problem solving strategy - inelegant brute force. Well, what mathematicians often call "brute force" - figuring out the parameters of the system and then exhaustively testing every possible solution until you find one that works.

Most of the time, that gets me to where I need to go, but with Antichamber, the parameters of the system are unpredictable, so when I get stuck, I can't be sure that I've tried everything possible. Maybe the reason I'm having trouble is because I entered a room forwards instead of backwards, or because there is a hidden pit or staircase in one of the corners, or because I've been trained to see everything as a trick when in fact the way forward is obvious.

So, I don't know, maybe this game will be good for me. Maybe I've gotten lazy in my thinking, and a novel challenge can help shake the cobwebs loose. It certainly seems possible. But I fear, like many other things that are good for you, Antichamber might be difficult to swallow.

No comments:

Post a Comment