Wandering the open plains of a green continent in David OReilly's Everything, I happened upon a bush, one not entirely dissimilar from the others sprawled across the sun-kissed tract. Except for the fact that this particular bush had a thought to offer me.
"32 years ago, for a period of exactly 11 seconds, I forgot that I was going to die."
I, a humble chicken at the time and admirer of the bush's forthcoming nature, was rather moved. "What a wonderful thought!" I shouted, "You lucky bush bastard," I added. But as strange as it was this brief interaction gave rise to so many questions on my part. Have I ever forgotten my own mortality, even just for a moment? What would that moment feel like? What would bring it about? If the fear of death was absent in my life how would it change my perspective? Why would something offer up something so personal? And why don't I share that much of me with others?
This, strangely enough, is a typical moment when playing #Everything, a game about literally that; everything. And I'd like — if you'll permit me — to relay a few more moments. Because, well, I'd like to share them and, in some way, I hope that it'll make you want to share, or at the very least play this remarkable game.
What Is Everything?
In Everything — the first game to qualify for an Academy Award — you can become everything. A rabbit, a bear, an old church, a fence, a well, a ladybird, a blade of grass, a germ, an atom, a continent, a planet, a sun. You morph into these things and make your way around the space you find yourself in. There's no objective in Everything, it's more of a meditation on the universe and all of its things. It's an exploration of an Eastern philosophy, a philosophy championed by British philosopher Alan Watts — the narrator of the game.
As you become more and more things in Everything, the man's philosophical musings become your actions. You become everything. And your becoming of everything is exactly the point. Because, according to Watts, that's what you are. That's what we all are.
Take a look at the short film below and I'll ramble some more once you're done.
So the answer to "What is everything?" is "You." We are all born from the same universe after all. We are as much a part of that universe as the giraffes in Africa, the rivers in Germany, the stars in space, the sheets on our beds. We are not born into this universe as some foreign, invasionary force — we are it. But we don't see ourselves that way. We see ourselves as a product of an explosion in space, a product of evolution or as beings that were planted here by a higher power. We feel separated; human.
So what Everything attempts to do is unleash the player in an environment where the idea of us being "everything" is more attainable, or at least given a kind of rudimentary semblance.
We can take from the experience of playing this game as much as we desire. We can transform into a squirrel and run around in the snow, become a pine tree for a little while then turn the game off. Or we can sit there for hours and witness an entirely unique journey, transcending the realms of 3D space. We can believe every word out of Watts' mouth or we can deny them all. But regardless of how you interact with the game, it's bound to be a memorable experience. One quite unlike anything the medium has to offer.
Everything proposes an idea in a truly unique format. And it's an idea that I found to be rather beautiful. I mean, what's not to like about this sentiment:
You Are Everything
Think of all the worries that you carry with you right now — the pressures we put upon ourselves and others on us. I'm too lazy; I'm too unattractive; I'm too boring. Why doesn't this particular person like me? Why do I feel so anxious? Why do I need to make myself more beautiful before I meet others? Why am I not as talented as this person? Why am I not successful? Why am I not loved?
We've created these neuroses as a society. We've generated these pressures because of how we perceive the world and our role within it. These feelings are a part of us because we've made them so. But Everything has moments where inanimate objects share these feelings with the player — our feelings. And I find them to be rather powerful. I can see myself in them, my friends and millions of others. All of us are going through different pains and problems, and hearing them, regardless of the context, is affecting.
- "My parents keep telling me to grow up, but I don't know how to grow any faster. I'm trying my best!"
- "I really hope I can make it through this day. It's been a rough week for this rough grass. I hope you're doing better."
- "There's gotta be a party on somewhere that I'm not invited to."
- "I feel very sad today. To be honest, I've been sad all week. The others won't play with me and I don't know why. Will you be my friend?"
I imagine it sounds ridiculous that I was moved by a tree telling me they were sad in a video game. But you're not supposed to simply look at what Everything presents you with on a surface level. The game and its creators hope that you'll look at the world around you — your life, the people you've met, the ones you love, the people you'll never know — and then think on those connections. Would an understanding of what we are and our relationship with the world around us bring us closer together, help alleviate fears? It's a fascinating question, one that gets to the core of who we are as a species. Because, let's face it, nothing else in our solar system shares this form of consciousness or these problems of identity.
But if we were to look at one another and acknowledge our similarities, that we are indeed a part of everything, wouldn't that change things? Watts certainly thought so.
"Your skin doesn't separate you from the world it's a bridge, through which the external world flows into you. And you flow into it. [...] The whole world is moving through you. [...] But the problem is, you see, we haven't been taught to feel that way. The myths underlining our culture and underlining our common sense have not taught us to feel identical with the universe, but only parts of it, in it — aliens! And we are, I think, quite urgently in need of coming to feel that we are the eternal universe, each one of us."
The Big Question
While playing Everything you'll have the opportunity to listen to a lot of Watts' seminars and talks he gave around the world. And throughout Watts' lectures he discussed life from the perspective of death. Because that's what we all do. We look at our time here as transient, always looking ahead, hopefully learning from the past. Some of us fear the end that awaits us all because we see it as the end of things as we know them. But Watts has another perspective on the great dance of life.
But because there's always some resistance to change, there is a wonderful manifestation of form, there is a dance of life. But the human mind, as distinct from most animal minds, is terribly aware of time. And so we think a great deal about the future, and we know that every visible form is going to disappear and be replaced by so-called others. Are these others, others? Or are they the same forms returning?
If we are indeed everything, and everything is us, surely we go on. We go on until the great dance that is our universe goes on. We are a part of history, a part of now and a part of what will be. But our time here — the time as ourself — is short. The "I" that we ascribe ourselves will be one small part of the greater adventure. There are so many people on this little planet here with us and we're all in it together. So perhaps it'd do us all some good to look at Everything and literally everything as... well, us. You never know, we might actually enjoy our time together a bit more.