Angshuman Dutta is currently a postgraduate student in his first year at Jadavpur University pursuing MA in English. He has published short stories in a couple of anthology compilations and in journals. He has a deep interest in the cultural impact of video games and his recent paper, titled “Playing in Space: Outer Wilds and sound”, was presented at Affecting Game Space: Theory and Practice organised by Game Worlds Cluster, Centre for Data, Culture and Society, the University of Edinburgh 2021.
Designing Space: Outer Wilds and its non-linear immersion
FROG 2021 – Talk
Open-world games are tending to become more and more massive as time goes on. The map is seemingly endless and teeming with myriad sets of objectives, collectables, interactives and NPCs. Players are given directives and hand-held through the mechanics as they traverse from one level to another. Mobius Digital’s Outer Wilds lies in contradiction to this trend. The game echoes on the surface the extreme fascination humanity has towards exploring space. Each planet, it feels, has its own essence, and audio cue, and the protagonist, finally becoming an astronaut, is to explore them all. Rather than putting an immense-almost-infinite world at the fingertips of the player, Outer Wilds puts them in a contained solar system stuck in a 22-minute time loop ending in the sun going supernova. The game is designed in such a way that interaction with it is not forced. Players can choose their own way to play each loop. They can visit wherever they want to and nothing other than the endgame actually requires a prior key to be collected or latch to be pulled. The immersion of the game resides in the uniqueness of the different planets, the accompanying music pieces, and the existentialist question of life and the self in a space that is dying. The game takes on a heuristic approach rather than helping the player with clear cut clues. The game is not meant to be or designed to be played in any one linear way. This paper wishes to examine how the design of the world in the game helps in the immersion of the players in its gamespace, while not binding the players to any certain way of playing.