When All The Pieces Fall Into Place

I’ve started and stopped writing about Gorogoa several times since I played in in December 2017. Rather than write a fresh review I present below the various writings, alongside their timestamps, which includes my immediate reaction I finished playing and my thoughts now four months later.

20 March 2018 – Reflections on Recommendations

I enjoy wandering around book shops but I hate hunting for a book to buy at a book shop. If it wasn’t for the little hand-written cards left by the people who work there I’d rarely know where to start. The same goes for finding videogames- I simply don’t put aside the hours to scour the (virtual) shelves in search of something special. For the past five years I tend to buy books and games that come recommended by someone I trust.

While it is nowhere close to the relaxed, hushed atmosphere of a book shop there’s always Twitter, I suppose. This past Christmas, amongst the torrent of little AI-typed hate cards, everyone was recommending Gorogoa.

15 December 2017 – The First Recommendation

The first recommendation came from Jonathon Blow, creator of two of my favourite videogames of all time, Braid and The Witness. He’s the greatest designer when it comes to deep puzzle games and anything that catches his eye is worth checking out.

18 December 2017 – The Second Recommendation

Then my worlds started to collide when Justin McElroy (legendary podcaster from My Brother, My Brother And Me and The Adventure Zone) and Amanda (legendary podcaster from Gamers With Jobs) exchanged tweets with David Williamson (legendary pirate friend):

— DWilhelmsson (@DWilhelmsson) December 18, 2017

21 December 2017 – The Third Recommendation

Peasants at Table (El Almuerzo) – Diego Velazquez (1619)

I was visited by the third and final Christmas Spirit of Gorogoa while I was having a pre-Christmas lunch with Rick Lane (legendary games writer and fantasy rat hunter) when he too recommended it. Later that day I bought the game.

24 December 2017 – After playing Gorogoa

Great art is the expression of an idea in a medium that would not work if expressed in another medium. That’s my definition and I’m sticking to it. I settled on this when looking at a painting of various geometric shapes in the Tate Modern titled something like The Spanish Civil War and I was like “no it isn’t”. It may well have been about that for the artist but I came away thinking perhaps an essay on the civil war might have been a better medium for that message, if that even was the message.

Videogames are a medium of sight and sound and of interactivity. Great art shows rather than tells and great puzzle videogames subvocalise the rules to the player. Gorogoa, much like The Witness, subvocalises the rules to the player without a single written or spoken word. When you play great games like these you enter a hushed, quiet state of mind, like perusing a library in your thoughts, as you investigate and interact. When the sights and sounds complement this interaction the result is a wonderful, playful meditation. Having finished my hour with Gorogoa I am slowly emerging back into the world, totally relaxed. It’s quite blissful.

Gorogoa is a puzzle game about swapping and zooming between illustrated tiles. But it is obviously deeper than that. It does not have the depth of The Witness, a simple game about drawing lines, or its philosophical concerns but it has something worth experiencing. I don’t know if Gorogoa speaks to any existing mythology in its tale of gathering fruits to offer the gods. I don’t think I could put into words the meaning of Gorogoa but I’m confident I experienced it.

02 April 2018 – My Final Reflection

I had a lovely 74 minutes of meditation with beautiful illustrations and gentle warm soundscape that is transendental. It was a perfect way for me to relax on a snowy Christmas Eve afternoon. Four months on and that meditative feeling is fading a little but not diminishing. In a few years’ time once the muscle memory is gone I will happily pick up Gorogoa again. And there’s not many puzzle games that can make me want to go back and “solve” them again.