Day 104: NO THING

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Not sure if what I played was a game or some elaborate form of torture.

I suppose the best way to describe NO THING is that it’s a first person runner on acid. You’re an office clerk in the year 1994 and have been told to deliver a message to The Queen of Ice, who apparently can only be reached via a series of narrow bridges set inside a luminous nightmare. All you have to do is turn left or right, a task that becomes increasingly more difficult as the environment speeds up and distorts around you. The world will shift colors at seemingly random points, each more blinding and abrasive than the previous, while a synthesized voice spouts Orwellian taunts from an unknown location.

It’s different, I’ll give it that. As someone that tends to champion that attribute, I’m torn between the unique nature of the game and how downright painful it can be to play. The combination of speed and color and symbolic imagery can be overwhelming when trying to also keep track of where you are. Later levels introduce false walls and blind jumps to make things even more disorienting. It actually becomes rather stressful to continue playing, which is… thematically appropriate, if nothing else. The main character clearly isn’t having a fun time, so it does feel silly to ask for something more forgiving given the context.

I do wonder if there is a balance to be reached between the message and the agency of the player in this case. If put on the spot, I don’t know if or how I would make any sort of adjustments. It’s times like this when the term “game” does feel a bit limiting, since fun isn’t the primary goal of NO THING, so much as the experience itself. It’s a very focused exercise in surrealism and aversion, and in that respect, it succeeds, but as far as being something I can look at for more than ten minutes… not so much.

Maybe I’m getting old and my eyes simply can’t handle flashy lights like they used to. This is why I like to empathize that I’m not in the business of writing reviews anymore. It’s difficult to make a quality assessment of something so esoteric. I will say that NO THING is something that should probably be seen by more people, simply for the fact that it is so uncompromising. Just maybe look at it a bit further back from the screen … with sunglasses on.

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