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Starseed Pilgrim and The Void - Two Strange Worlds of Light and Darkness

Started by droqen, May 19, 2023, 08:01:49 AM

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Quote from: 2:33[Elden Ring] made me want to feel how I felt when I played Demon's Souls for that very first time . . . exploring those daunting landscapes and intimidating mechanics. It made me yearn to be confused and dwarfed and scared and homesick and desperate.

These emotions. I'm thinking about Adventure Manifesto (Gabe) as well as ~ Ugly Feelings (Sianne Ngai).

I loved The Void, or rather I really wanted to love The Void, and loved it for a time. This feeling of... this feeling of lostness in a system is something I desperately miss. I really find it hard when I feel this way about content about my own games because I don't know if I'm ego-tripping or what, but I'm feeling very strongly.

It's deeply humbling to see Starseed Pilgrim still come up as a standing example of this kind of thing. It reminds me of something I suppose I lost touch with -- if I ever had ahold of it in the first place.


Quote from: 3:20Light, a thing of hope and guidance. Restorative, protective, light heals and illuminates and leads the way forward. Unless it doesn't. Unless light becomes as oppressive as any dungeon or cave, the sheer blinding expanse of white on every side both drawing you in and threatening to swallow you up. An unnatural brightness, that doesn't guide but obscures the way forward, obscures the fact that there even is a way forward. Starseed Pilgrim is weird.

It's very, very touching, that my game with all its white space inspired such a cool piece of writing. I like the word weird here. It feels like an actually fresh take on SSP, after... decades... What the fuck?

Quote from: 5:34It's so alien, this world that reverses itself when you touch that strange blackness . . . where planning ahead is inevitable and impossible. . .

I REALLY love this last phrase. "Planning ahead is inevitable and impossible." Holy shit I fucking love it. Does Starseed Pilgrim feel that way to me? I guess it does. It is a new idea to me, a bright new lens. Interesting decisions, sure. Randomness, sure. I like some chaos, some... this quote from ~ Thinking in Systems captures it better than I ever have before:

Quote from: Thinking in Systems p170, Donella MeadowsWe can't control systems or figure them out. But we can dance with them!
I already knew that, in a way. I had learned about dancing with great powers from whitewater kayaking, from gardening, from playing music, from skiing. All those endeavors require one to stay wide awake, pay close attention, participate flat out, and respond to feedback.
. . . Living successfully in a world of systems requires more of us than our ability to calculate. It requires our full humanity---our rationality, our ability to sort out truth from falsehood, our intuition, our compassion, our vision, and our morality.

But this turn of phrase catches it for me, too. Planning ahead is inevitable and impossible. We must live without knowing why. That's life


Quote from: 6:03You'll adapt to this world -- there's no other way. You'll learn to speak its language or you'll never leave.

Oh. Wow. Maybe I knew this already. Starseed Pilgrim is an oubliette? Not surprising, but... still... surprising.


Quote from: 8:13[Starseed Pilgrim's] first big trick is in trusting you, the player, to come up with the idea that there might be something more in this seemingly empty world, to reach out, blind and hopeful into the nothingness with the faith of the pilgrim. Hey, what if I...? An idea like a seed from the universe.

Quote from: 9:18. . . entire new lands just beyond what can be seen, requiring only that you reach out for them. . .

Trust. That trust. That trust is so important. We come back to it often in Paradise, again and again. Many theories of play demand that play is voluntary. I don't know whether I would call it trust, maybe I'd call it faith. Maybe they're indistinguishable.

I love all of this. I want to play a game that makes me feel this way. I'm so jealous, haha.


Quote from: 10:00. . . pushing into the abyss with hope in your eyes . . . The pure bliss of creating something from nothing, of building a traversable technicolor world that you can say with confidence is completely different from every other one that has ever been built.

This last sentence is accompanied by a scroll through of what appears to be google images. And I see a lot of similarities, especially the huge red explosions (blossoms?), but there is an absolute uniqueness, a permanent physical trail that is made up of the player's actions, something that I've been chasing in other designs... Something about Christopher Alexander belongs here, the way he wants people to design their own homes. I want that for everyone too.

Right, the Christopher Alexander thing. He wants people to design their own homes according to patterns that work--not homes that are different because we want them to be different but because they are locally adapted, uniquely, to the individual context. That's how I feel, seeing all these images of red blossoms... Everyone's Starseed Pilgrim overworld has so much in common with everyone else's, and yet within that similarity is a deeply personal difference that comes from your tiny choices and preferences.

I'm happy that it feels that way.


Omg, at around 13:00 the video starts saying the exact same things about The Void that were said about Starseed Pilgrim. Attention isn't overtly pointed at this parallel, but it's beautifully intentional.

Quote from: 13:15The weirdness starts straight away in the opening screen . . . preparing you for what's to come in ways you won't understand yet.

This in particular is so important. It is why I find it so easy to drop games after a few minutes of play.


Quote from: 14:15. . . a fragile world under siege from the relentless forces of entropy, teetering on the precipice of nonexistence.

I desperately want more games that feel this way.


Quote from: 16:24[The game lies to you in ways that readily lead you into failure.] But rather than feeling like cheap tricks, these misdirections feel like natural consequences of a world that is unknowable, even by the flawed beings that live within it, all of whom are working on incomplete information.

(Planning ahead is inevitable and impossible. We must live without knowing why. That's life)


Quote from: 19:02What's the point of it? The answer is I don't know, but it's engrossing to try and understand it, all the same.

For all their obtuseness, I can manufacture plausible theories about how Kentucky Route Zero is about . . . and Dear Esther is about . . . and INSIDE is about . . .

But The Void does not open for me.


Quote from: 20:45The Void is about the search for meaning because every moment of playing it is a search for meaning. It is one long, difficulty journey through the dark, with almost no hope and very little guidance. Reminds me of some other worlds I used to know.

Cut to Demons Souls. Oh, that beautiful music.


Oh, wow, Kat played Starseed Pilgrim and The Void only recently, and they still endure.


Quote from: 22:49. . . the brutality of leaving the player to find their own way and their own interpretation of the journey.


Such criticism of Fromsoft. I agree with it very much... It's funny, the parallels being drawn, beautiful really. The company fighting against entropy, losing some spark along the way.

Oh, we're talking about the endings of these games now.

Quote from: 25:17. . . what did you expect? You're trying to outrun entropy itself. How long do you think that can continue?