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The Witness is the best gaming and non-gaming experience I’ve had for years

I will speak about the game and how it made me feel and spoil some minor things about it but I won't spoil things I think must not be spoiled. If you haven't played The Witness, you still can read this. And then, maybe go and play it. I first played this game back in 2016 when it came out. I played for several hours, the puzzles and metroidvania-like game design were fun, but then I was distracted by work and had to put the game into my ever-growing backlog.

Then there were five years. Some of which were normal, some good, some shitty, and some, in retrospect, were clinically depressing. This winter, I've finally found some time in my life to slow down and took a kind of sabbatical. I played a few games, read a few books, and then started to feel a little bit depressed again.

And then I thought I should try this little puzzle game I never finished years ago. It's made by the guy who made Braid, the game I loved 10 years ago, so it ought to be a small cozy adventure with a thought-provoking story.

I was mistaken.

First, it wasn't small. It took me almost 40 hours to finish the game and solve most of the puzzles (but not all of them).

Second, it had no story. There was some narrative pieced together by environment, audiologs with quotations of real-world people, and real-world video clips. But when I reached the ending it all didn't quite come together.

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And third, while solving puzzles on your own, without googling, was hugely satisfying (and some of them were brain-melting difficult for me, and I don't play puzzle games like at all), by 20-ishth hour I grew frustrated about the game being all about these puzzles.

And then, I discovered that it's not all about these puzzles. I won't tell what exactly I had discovered, the main point is that I was rushing through the puzzles and never noticed that. I needed to get exhausted by the game to slow down a little and look at the game and its world from a little different perspective.

Right after that, I noticed I started to apply this approach to the real world too. First, it was just a tetris effect induced by The Witness's puzzles, just noticing familiar patterns. But it still was interesting to see these things by looking at the world from a different perspective.

And then I started to apply this perspective thing to my thought process. I can't say the game changed the way I think. After struggling with depressing thoughts and states for a while and discussing it with my friends, I realized that changing perspective is often the best way to see that things are not as bad as your mind makes them. But you can't just change your mind's perspective on things with a snap of the fingers.

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The Witness was the exercise that thought me that you can. You just need to slow down and start noticing things. Noticing they're much more interesting than they seem when you run past them. Put your mind to work outwards, not inwards.

(It's funny how I get a deja vu from what I've just written since this was the same thought I came to after my latest read of Fahrenheit 451, exactly five years ago, which helped me to deal with a crisis back then. Guess, we tend to forget the healthy conclusions we make. Good thing we come back to them eventually.)

For years I was seeking new thoughts and ideas that could freshen my view of the world. It was a thing for me years ago, when I was a teen reading books, watching films, and was able to get inspired and fascinated by all the thoughts put into those. But with time it all faded away, substituted by mundane work tasks and monotonous (yet fast) living spiced by negative thinking.

Now it seems things go back into order. Just because there isn't just chaos out there. The sabbatical pays off, and I'm glad I had time to play The Witness amidst of it. Maybe you should too.

P.S. After beating the game (btw, I cheated and looked up a few solutions for a few puzzles in the final section of the game) I went to YouTube and watched a bunch of video essays on The Witness. This one is the best among them. It greatly expanded my understanding of the game (and many other things) and helped me sort out my thoughts after playing it. Can't express enough how brilliant it is.

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