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Community Article: Indie Insights - Everything

Written by John Edwards

There are many games that are cinematic, full of cut scenes and set pieces, aping the style and beats of filmmaking. However, it's a game where cows flip stiffly head over heels in a bizarre, surreal manner which actually made it to a long list of contenders for Best Animated Short Film at the Oscars.

Everything released an 11-minute trailer (https://youtu.be/JYHp8LwBUzo) which won the 2017 Jury Prize at the 2017 Vienna Independent Shorts film festival and that qualified it for the Oscars. But that's not really the main thing that makes Everything atypical as a game.

It could be argued that Everything isn't a game, so much as a piece of interactive art or an experience, but there is an objective and measures of success, it's just that it's very free form and incredibly peculiar.

When I started my game, I was an arctic wolf. A low poly, barely textured wolf. Pushing the left stick, the wolf flipped 90°, tumbling across the snow in the style of stop motion, if the animator could only be bothered with 2% of the work. It can be quite off-putting initially, and possibly some people will never embrace Everything's odd aesthetics, but the game is much deeper than the rudimentary appearance suggests.

You gain various abilities through your playtime, the first is to swap to be other things. Squeezing the left and right triggers will circle things around you that are smaller or bigger than you respectively. You can swap to 'being' those things. Scaling up and down goes much further than you may first assume. Shrink from a wolf to a shrub to a rock to an insect to a mite to bacteria to atoms. Grow to a tree, a boulder, a continent, a planet, a solar system. Everything lets you be everything on any scale.

You can form groups of objects, first ones the same as you, then later any. Make the objects dance and they'll reproduce. You'll come across speech bubbles as you wander around, these give you insights into the thoughts of the various entities in the world. I can't think of any other game that gives you an insight into the innermost thoughts and feelings of a skyscraper or the insecurities of an asteroid. 

Alongside these thoughts are audio clips from the late philosopher Alan Watts. These are absolutely fascinating as he talks about the nature of existence and how we fit in with the world around us. The profound nature of his audio clips contrasts starkly with the frankly absurd sights going on in the game, but it works to make a compelling experience.

You want to see what new object you can take control of, find out what a fence is thinking, shrink down so small that you enter a weird subatomic realm and come out the other side as a galaxy. You can, if you want, leave the game on autopilot, adjusting settings for how often it'll change to other objects, or dance, or replicate, shrink and grow. It becomes like a very complex screensaver that dispenses philosophical musings.

There are thousands of things in Everything and each can be viewed with a Wikipedia entry if you turn the documentary mode on. I doubt I'll ever find everything in Everything, but exploring the world it offers is enough. There are plenty of games that will make you think, with puzzles or bombastic plots, but Everything makes you consider your own existence in comparison to not just the people around you, but all things. That is done so in a comforting and reassuring way is worthy of awards.