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[No spoilers] Outer Wilds, and making games magical

Gamingtodaynews1e - [No spoilers] Outer Wilds, and making games magical
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I played Outer Wilds five or six months ago, and to this day I can't hear the OST without dropping tears, and I can't think about the game without feeling this hole of warm sadness-happiness.

If you didn't play it yet, I have nothing to say but just go and do it. I honestly can't put into words how amazing it is to immerse yourself on this bottle universe, and uncover the mystery of it piece by piece.

If you played it, I can't precisely say if it was the same for you as it was for me; I can't stop praising or thinking about it. And if you go around the internet, that is a shared feeling between a chunk of the community.

It's impactful; meaningful; rewarding. But above all, it is simply magical. It's been years since a game affected me emotionally like that during gameplay moments and thereafter, feeling genuine fear, and terror, and joy, and determination, and courage.

But what was the recipe? How can something leave such a deep mark on you, what does it do differently that elevates the emotional impact of the journey? I feel there are tons of perfected factors that contribute to it, and I will try to separate and analyse some of it.

Immersion and Consistency

Simply put, nothing in this game is a thrown mechanic. Everything has a reason, everything is grounded in reality, lore, and a tightly written script that truly brings what could be simply 'gaming gimmicks' into parts of that universe.

No markers. No pointers. Just curiosity.

I can only speak for myself on this, but games that guide you with a glowing yellow line, or scent trail, or huge HUD pointers; they are removing the gaming factor of the Going and Finding. That's not the challenge, but a hassle you have to put up with until you get to the other place.

But from the moment you start playing Outer Wilds, your destiny is yours. Which planet to go? What mystery to pursue? How do I get THERE? What the hell happened HERE?

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You can only return to the game after putting it down if you are engaged in what it proposes. There will be no quest marks next day, nor glowing pointers. What is it that YOU want to discover?

The death of a civilization

From a writing PoV, this is their homerun. Without much spoilers, you are bound to be curious as to what the hell happened here before your people appeared, just because you learn with each step how advanced the Nomai were.

Evolving feelings

If I had to point to single amazing thing this game did, this is it. Space is FREAKY, and SCARY. You begin your journey a scared rookie, with trembling legs while you throw yourself on the moon in the hopes of a landing.

Soon enough, you venture somewhere else. You are scared at first; this is a hostile, chaotic planet. You don't know how to feel safe here, because you don't understand it.

But you return. You know things now, you know what can hurt you. The scary black hole is not that weird anymore, now that you comprehend it fully.

You conquer it. Soon, the same planet you dreaded becomes a walk in the park. There was nothing to be afraid, after all, just…

SPACE

Because this game treats everything as real and grounded, you are not playing a game in space. YOU ARE IN SPACE, and space is DANGEROUS. Black holes are scary. Losing your ship is scary. Flying into the sun is scary.

The use of the true unknown, the existential dread of the infinite, and even if death is mostly hard to achieve, it is still unsettling and unsafe.

As I said on the start of this, I struggle to put into words just what makes a game so impactful and magical. I hoped to put some of what could make it here, but still, nothing left a mark on me like Outer Wilds, and for many years to come I don't think I will ever play something like it again.

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