I am a rhino. I stiffly flip my body end-over-end as I move around. I can sing to other animals, make friends with other animals (eventually, I know, I’ll be able to make friends with everything).
I switch and become a turtle. I move slower and my song is different. I can find fewer turtles to befriend so we dance and make some more. Our turtle tribe moves away from the rocky outcropping, down into a calm oasis, all singing, all joining. I dismiss my friends and am alone again.
Now I am a blade of grass. I can still move and dance and sing and make friends, but I can see more of the world that is smaller than I. There is so much to this world, so much to see and befriend and experience. There’s so much to be.
I am a piece of dirt. I move amongst the other pieces of dirt, flying through the suddenly vast spaces between us. The grass towers above me, green spires shining in the sun. The world is moving so slowly, a day lasts as long as a lifetime. I realise that I can think for myself. I move towards a clump of matter.
I am pollen. I am e-coli. I am a particle of hydrogen. I go down, further in and farther out. I am a complex shape. Down. A sphere. Down. A planck length. Down. A galaxy.
I am Everything. I am a grown man, sat before the TV with tears in my eyes.
Everything isn’t a game. You play it like a game, with a controller. You interact with it like a game, watching it on the TV, pressing buttons to make things happen. It may even feel a bit like a game while you’re playing it, moving, talking, collecting. But Everything is more than a game. It’s an experience. It’s an interactive art installation. But wait, before you run for the hills, let me tell you why that’s a good thing. A very good thing.
Everything is, at once, utterly bizarre, brilliantly hilarious and incredibly profound. The game’s premise is that you can experience the universe from the point of view of just about everything; that you can feel what it’s like to be a monkey, an ice floe or a neutron star. Through all these things and thousands more, you can move through the different planes of existence; from the microscopic to the universal, inner and outer space and the null-space in which the building blocks of all life and thought exist.
You hear their thoughts, collect their shapes and can, eventually, summon them again at will, growing or shrinking them to suit your needs, multiplying them or gathering and deleting them again. You form flocks of things or wander alone. You can ascend and descend almost at will and the universe that you experience will change along with you.
You learn how to use the game’s vast array of, surprisingly, easy to use tools during the course of a tutorial which, taking as it did about three hours for me to complete, I’d assumed to be the actual meat of the game. The tutorial takes you through all of Everything’s levels, lets you experience almost all of its little tricks and, right at the end, proceeds to blow your mind with an ending that was on a similar emotional level to Journey (another game I cried at). When I saw some incredibly helpful text, congratulating me for completing the game’s tutorial, I sat for a while with my mouth open, wondering what I should do next. A question to which the obvious answer was, of course, keep playing.
And Everything is no slouch when it comes to rewarding you for that. These aren’t your typical gold pieces or heart fragment type of rewards, though. Everything eschews those (alongside plenty of other standard video game tropes) for the rewards of thought, of mind, or of just being able to do weird stuff in the sandbox, like transforming a skyscraper into a gargantuan tick or flooding the depths of space with toy cars. Okay, that’s not all it rewards you with. You also get access to greater control over the autoplay mode, as well as an incredible documentary feature.
Ah yes, autoplay. If you leave Everything alone for any space of time (literally a few seconds will do it) the game will play itself. Depending on which settings you’ve chosen, the game will act with either full autonomy: switching, transforming, scaling, multiplying, flocking, ascending and descending at will (and, sometimes, with startling rapidity) or will simply meander whatever thing you’re currently being across the landscape you’re currently looking at and everything in between.
You’ll still collect things in this mode – adding them to the ever-expanding pool of stuff you can conjure up or transform into – and you can even tell the game to go searching for the stray thoughts of other things, further hints to help you play and, best of all, the scattered audio-logs that form the backbone of Everything’s epic universe of wonder.
Everything is narrated by the late British-American philosopher Alan Watts and it’s his voice that you’ll hear each time you pick up those audio-logs. While, at first, I was slightly confused at what this strange interpreter of Eastern philosophy was saying, I swiftly became enraptured by the ideas he was setting out and began to eagerly anticipate the next sound-bite, the next snippet of fascinating insight, until, at one point, I was literally just looking around for more things to listen to. Fortunately, as with everything you collect in Everything (including stray thoughts) the audio-logs are kept for you, tucked away neatly in the game’s menu, so that you can retrieve them at any time.
As opposed to just being there for the sake of having something profound in his video game, creator David OReilly has included this recordings as a way to teach the player what he wants them to experience while playing Everything. Themes about life, the universe, our sense of who we are and what we represent, distance, time and perspective are all presented to us through the medium of Watts’ recordings and this strange, fun, enigmatic game world that we are the owners, controllers and, even, creators of.
Everything won’t be for everyone. Some people probably won’t find it terribly engaging. Some people will probably think it’s trying to be preachy or they’ll bemoan the lack of stuff to do. But Everything wasn’t made for them. It was made for people like me; people who want to experience something cerebral and emotional when they play a video game, people who want profundity and philosophy in their lives, people who don’t solely get off on gun-toting, ass-kicking violence. People who can be given something with little instruction and told, simply: ‘Play’.
I am Jamie, and Everything is marvellous.