OUTER WILDS & SHOOTING STAR ZINFANDEL...AND AN INTERVIEW WITH SECMO!
In my last post, I explained all the ways in which I've fallen in love with Ring Fit Adventure. It's easily my Game of the Year. But what about another game that's gotten quite the clamor (and is also a more popular choice)? I've been meaning to play Outer Wilds since it came out last May. I purchased it the day it released...but during my first session I got quite the bout of motion sickness and decided to put it on the backburner. Now while I've managed to put a significant dent in my play-through as part of my New Year's resolutions...I haven't completed it yet. So I thought we could do a little something different. For this blog post, I've asked Secmo (my favorite Twitch streamer and very dear friend) to answer a few questions about his experience with Outer Wilds, and why its so special.
Hi Secmo! Thanks for being my guest-writer today! How does streaming games on Twitch affect your experience with games?
I’ve found that streaming has really opened my eyes to much different game experiences than I traditionally would have played on my own. Choosing to dive into a game with my community means that I’m giving myself over to the experience and willing myself to go along for the ride – whereas if I was playing a game alone, I might be liable to turn it off when I hit a section I don’t particularly love. Numerous times, while streaming, I’ve pushed through tough sections like that and ended up deciding I truly enjoyed the experience as a whole. Streaming forces me to actively analyze what is happening and how it makes me feel – I think talking about games is one of the most important parts of the hobby. Hearing other people’s stories and unique perspectives – especially with a game like Outer Wilds – is exciting and informative.
What was your experience playing Outer Wilds on Twitch like?
It was full of interesting conversations about philosophy, the meaning of life, and the eventual heat death of the universe! I think this game would still work great as a quiet, contemplative game – but I loved the constant stream of interesting questions that people brought up throughout my playthrough.
What does GOTY mean to you?
In a basic sense – GotY is usually the game which most made me FEEL something in a given year. That usually coincides with the games which I also find the most evolutionary. For instance – I think Horizon Zero Dawn is a great adventure – but it would never be considered GotY for me because it just feels like a nicely polished example of mechanics and storytelling which have already been seen over and over again.
What sets Outer Wilds apart from the other games you've played this year? What made it resonate with you so strongly that its become your GOTY?
It has a game loop so completely unlike anything else I’ve ever played! I have always been a huge fan of puzzle games – growing up on titles like the original King’s Quests and Myst – I thoroughly enjoy the process of working through clues and eventually stumbling upon that “Eureka” moment. Outer Wilds managed to take that feeling and sprinkle it across an entire solar system! Having the freedom to explore different planets and piece together this huge sci-fi story with so little exposition was incredibly liberating. It made it feel as though every discovery was mine – and not just something that was given to me as a matter of progress. Subnautica (my GotY 2018) was another game which did this very well – there weren’t necessarily puzzles to solve – but you were constantly just left to your own devices without any sense of what you might find.
What do you think other games could learn from Outer Wilds?
That sense of true discovery is huge – most games (prominently displayed in the Ubisoft model) give you these huge lists of things to do. I get why it’s done – but it takes almost all sense of wonder out of the experience! I found the ship log in Outer Wilds to be a great implementation – it takes simple note of every important detail you come across – and informs you if there is more to explore in a general location. It’s always just enough to go on – without actually giving anything away. I constantly found myself reading back over the information in my log and coming up with new ideas about what I might want to do. I found this to be much more immersive than the standard quest log in most games. The Time Loop mechanic obviously can’t be used in all games – but it is a wonderfully interesting way to affect the game experience. Progress can never really be quantified - other than by the knowledge the player has gained. I think this is one of the biggest things to learn from Outer Wilds as a piece of art. These developers crafted a world which gives the player true agency over the information they find and, subsequently, what they learn from that information.
Now obviously this wouldn't be Wine and Game Pairing without the wine so...what do you think of Shooting Star Zinfandel alongside Outer Wilds? (I actually handed him a glass of wine to sip at this point):
That's a wine! *another sip* It's a very nice wine.
Well I guess I can't expect him to sell my pairing...Shooting Star is a bold treat, much like Outer Wilds. It's full of rich, brambly berry flavors, baking spices, and a bit of tobacco. It's an exciting burst of tannin, acidity, and flavor...yet the notes are familiar and comforting. Which, weirdly enough, seems to match my experience with Outer Wilds so far. Each day starts out at a cozy fire, surrounded by my home and friends on Timber Hearth...but each time I venture out into the solar system, I make more and more incredible discoveries that set my soul sparkling like the stars. I think you get the gist by now that Secmo and I both recommend this delightful adventure.
If you'd like to follow Secmo to hear more...click on the links!