A witness to shifts in perspective

Kevin Niederman


I really want to write about Valentine’s Day.

I want to write about those flavored chalk hearts with cute sentiments written in text lingo. I want to write about how all the pressure for dining and dazzling is on the men, and how that's fine because we don't have to endure things like childbirth or periods. I want to write about how everyone is going to buy flowers and chocolate, and how that's the only thing you ever should buy on this holiday.

I want to, but I can't. My mind is held captive by a video game called “The Witness.”

The whole thing starts in a black tunnel with a door at the end of it. As you approach the door, you see a shape glowing on its face. It's a circle at one end, with a thick line stretching out to the other.

The game instructs you to push the A button: the only time it gives you any direction. Pushing this button activates a cursor, which you can then use to trace the shape starting at the circle and following the line to its end. Completing this opens the door.

As you start opening doors via these symbols, which gradually evolve into mazes and, ultimately, puzzles, you find yourself outdoors on a dreamlike island.

The gameplay stays the same through the entire game. You walk around the island completing these line-tracing puzzles as you find them. They keep getting more and more complex, until you're literally solving puzzles in the real world, connecting boulders and paths.

This game takes mazes to their penultimate state. I cannot fathom a puzzle or maze that utilizes a simple line drawing mechanic in any conceivable way that has not already been created and masterfully implemented in this game.

And that has me thinking. Aside from the puzzles that seize my mind and haunt my dreams, I can't stop thinking about how thoroughly that line-drawing mechanic was implemented, and how I have nothing to compare it to. There is no aspect of my life that I've worked on to such a complete degree.

And I feel shame.

I want to forge at least a single aspect of myself into not only the best that it can be, but to the fullest it can be. If a dot and a line can be shifted, evolved or reformed into some of the things I've seen in this game while still retaining that simple trace line structure, then surely I am handicapping myself in my own development as a person somewhere.

I'm not saying that I'm heading in the wrong direction. I love what nursing has offered me so far, and I have no plans to veer off that course.

I'm trying to say that, in all that I do—nursing, gaming, and Clocktower writing for instance—I am not, have not, fully immersed. I haven't applied myself 100 percent to anything in years, if ever.

That application is daunting, a task almost insurmountable from my perspective. I know that I can apply myself, but feel it nigh impossible I ever will.

But this game changes that. This game takes tracing lines on a screen to places I never even thought existed. My brain practically ruptures when I think what fantastical feats come from the tiniest shifts in perspective.

Those shifts in perspective, in application, totally change the dynamic of the puzzle. Everything somehow feels different even though you're just tracing lines through a maze, same as you've been doing for hours.

Those shifts change everything, and they make me feel as though I can shift my perspective too, and make what I think impossible a reality. It's inspiring me to actually try. Don't coast. Don't ride coat tails. Don't survive. Actually, honest to God, try.

And that's a good feeling to have.

Kevin Niederman is a junior nursing major hailing from Santa Rosa CA, about an hour north of San Francisco. He enjoys cartoons, hats, and driving ridiculous distances for food that has the potential of being amazing.