Yesterday I finished The Witness by Jonathan Blow…
… and this was a very brave game to make… it feels like it has no story to drive you along. Instead it drives you along through a willingness to solve puzzles and explore a complex and beautiful world. These puzzles get more and more complicated, not through complex rules, but a collection of simple rules being layered on top of each other.
But how does the title link back to the game itself….?
NOTE while I haven’t seen anyone go down this line, this doesn’t mean someone else hasn’t beaten me to the punch. If someone has let me know and I’ll acknowledge it next time (must be older than this Blog).
The Witness seems an unusual title but when you stop to think about it, it makes perfect sense and it’s solved through the “Credits Ending” of the game. It was hard to find just the FMV so find 2:30 on the video below and SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ONWARDS!
I knew about the FMV ending but I’d never seen it in full up until I completed the game and found the secret… however the start of the FMV shows a man not just waking up but sleeping on a couch wired up to what can only be described as a brainwave machine and some sort of computer unit strapped to his head (from the wires removed). It seems that you’ve seen what is going on inside his head… YOU ARE THE WITNESS.
Think about it… you are exploring how a man solves issues and puzzles, how they progress from simple to complex. I know this sounds weird but it’s kind of how I operate when I’m designing stuff as well starting simple and seeing how deep I can go with a simple rule set.
Now I know what you are thinking; surely he’s created a game that anyone can solve so he had to make sure everyone could solve it… No matter how skilled you are you can not remove all the biases that exist from your standpoint; this is his goals personified, It’s his journey, one he created based on the concept of puzzle solving.
Wait, I’m playing his game, I’m not passive I’m active… Yes, while you are an active player in trying to open doors and create bridges, you can’t change the world; all humans are statues, all of the extra light paths are static and the world resets at the end of the first cycle as if it’s you rewinding an old VHS. You can only solve the hidden puzzles if they are there to be solved and who placed these puzzles… Jonathan Blow
The Witness is a sense of irony, you are actively playing this game yet you haven’t changed anything by the end; all the puzzles have reset and when you open the door again, you are back to square one. The World only changes slightly allowing access to the Hotel and the Credits (great trick using the cassette recorders for the credits btw). You can play again but nothing will have changed because you’ve played it once. You will always be the witness in this world.