The Witness

The Witness is a beautiful and mysterious game by famed indie game developer, Jonathan Blow. He’s been working on this game for the better part of a decade after the release of his debut title, Braid.

In The Witness, you explore an island held together by various kinds of line/circle puzzles. The island has a variety of environments with their own versions of these puzzles. Areas in the general world combine these different rules into more complex versions of puzzles you already know.

Progression in the game is the transformation of yourself. The game never explicitly teaches you how to do these puzzles. Everything is learned by doing. You are trained through a system of progressively difficult puzzles with each new rule set. The world is open, as well, so you can begin anywhere you’d like and tackle any puzzle at any time. But, if you haven’t experienced the rules for yourself, you might not know what to look for, or how to figure it out.

It’s an amazing journey. It’s very satisfying to figure out how to solve puzzles, especially ones you’ve seen at the beginning and had no idea what to do at that time.

Though, it’s hard not to feel like a tourist when exploring the idea. You are only able to interact with puzzles, and there are no people. No living people, anyway. There are some statues of people that can be interpreted as some kind of story, or hint. There are voice recordings and some videos, too, but say nothing directly. They are all quote and clips of renowned scientists talking about how we perceive ourselves and the world around us.

In the end, I think island is just an allegory. The idea of a person just writing puzzles. A person losing himself to art of writing the same puzzle over and over again. And by writing these puzzles he encapsulates and isolates himself from the world, whether it be by accident or on purpose. The act of solving all these puzzles isn’t to set him free, but to understand the corner he’s written himself in.

In that way, too, the idea of being a tourist still works. You are basically just exploring the mind of a puzzle writer.

I guess the only revelation found through the game, it’s "braid-like" moment, (spoilers) would be naturally discovering that the accumulation of the puzzles have transformed the environment into a puzzle itself. And once you begin noticing the line/circle puzzle in the environment, you begin looking everywhere for the hints of a circle so that it might complete another unseen puzzle.

In a way, the game transforms you again. Well, it changed me anyway. Becoming obsessed with these puzzles in the game bleeds into the real life. Now, I see circles and lines everywhere and moving into a position where I could complete the puzzle.

The Witness is an amazing and unique experience. Beautiful, mysterious, and brilliant. It is definitely worth your time to play it.

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