I think you’re right that my coding experience made the puzzles less exciting in the way you describe (the feeling of genius). But I also agree that for many people, especially people who are immediately engaged by puzzles, this game offers a unique opportunity to get that experience, regardless of background. And I remain very impressed with the game, despite not being a big puzzler myself. For me, the a puzzle is only as good as its relationship to the story. Games like The Witness work for me even though the story, and the relationship, are obscured. Games like Portal are less interesting as serious work for my own taste, but I happen to enjoy that kind of casual experience, that relies on wit, as well. I will say, I am reaching my internal limit on the number of games I want to play that have consistent timed elements to them. Besides being naturally slow moving myself, I think that how fast you can do something right is just not that interesting as a consumer — e.g. watching shows where participants have X amount of time to finish a meal or a race or somesuch.
I did leave out the story bits from my first post, because there is a hole to fall into having to do with one’s own body and “authenticity.” It’s a lot to digest and though I agree that there is some sadness in departure from one universal state of being (non-cyborg), I’ve come around to the idea that cyborg-humans will be entities with their own agencies soon enough, at which point, we will have to learn to treat them as such (that is, as subjects and not objects). I bought a graphic novel in Seattle, the last time I visited you, called Alex and Ada, and it also deals with this theme. I honestly think it’s a unifying topic for artists, scientists, scholars, and critics right now and more should be done to encourage that unity.
I was especially taken with your point about how it’s a serious game that almost seems to be an RPG/puzzle hybrid. The obvious seriousness (and of course the aesthetic) of the game is what immediately won me over, I loved that someone did this with a puzzle game. Usually, when I think of serious puzzle games, I think of that particular demographic of people whose stake in rational thinking is so high that all other things become subject to it. I like The Witness a lot, even the way the story (such as it is) is obscured, but I do think it’s a product of a design process that cannot distinguish between the system and the system’s experience. In The Witness, I am the process, but in Quadrilateral Cowboy, the puzzles comprise a struggle for an experience that is greater than simply progress.
OK. So I think we can spend a little more time complimenting one other aspect of the game, too — the presence of NPCs without NPCs. From hand scrawled note tutorials, to the sticky notes, to the fact that it is a simulation within the game — something created in-universe prior to your character appearing — you are not alone, and yet, there is also a pervasive sense of loneliness because none of these characters are there. And yes, you’re right that slowly becoming machine seems to also speak to this different form of thereness.
And the desktop interface. Be still my heart. <3
Someone should just make a list of games that involve phony desktop interface. Someone named Dylan.