Entertainment,  Personal

Outer Wilds: The Transformative Power of Uncertainty and Faith

If you are part of any kind of gaming community and have never played or heard of Outer Wilds, it’s very likely that you’ll encounter someone soon who will recommend you to play it or will tell you about their experience.

There’s a growing coalition of Outer Wilds “evangelists” who swear that playing the game is nothing short of a spiritual existence and won’t be happy until they can pass it onto others. Many of those moved by the game mention a sort of catharsis: one deeply personal and yet universal. You’ll often hear people fond of the game say they wish they could wipe their memories of the game just so they can experience it again.

The best way to experience Outer Wilds is to dive in completely blind. If you are interested in playing OW and want the full experience, you should stop reading here, and experience it yourself.

A lot has already been said about the game’s appeal, themes, and it’s game & sound design. There is nothing I can say about these topics that hasn’t already been thoroughly analyzed more qualified creators. What I want to explore here, is something I haven’t seen explicitly mentioned, only hinted at.

I want to do a deep dive on the value of Outer Wilds as a living mythology that naturally fills the void of traditional faith and religion in the modern age. Outer Wilds, and the journey through uncertainty it provides, scratches an itch that is seldom filled by modern storytelling and this is something that cannot be overlooked or overstated. Ultimately, I believe that OW sets the stage for a new kind of faith that can survive the scrutiny of scientific exploration. A kind of belief not destroyed by uncertainty, but made stronger by it.

I am someone who has struggled for most of my life with faith and spirituality. Believing in something greater is something I’ve always wanted but have never been able to find an honest path to. I tried to believe in the religious traditions I was raised with, but this faith always felt hollow and unearned.

Reason and faith always seem at each other’s throats.

Reason begs us to snuff our uncertainty. To make every unknown into a known. To label and demystify every fragment of wonder and catalog it.

Faith begs the opposite. It asks us to trust in what cannot be known. To embrace a hypothesis without ever being able to scrutinize it. It asks us to love the unknown and leave it alone.

The story offered by Outer Wilds offers an alternative. It successfully alchemizes these seemingly incompatible elements into a rare compound that, like a quantum shard, relies on its interaction with an observer to perform its magic.

This alchemy is only possible when you add an important catalyst: uncertainty.

Outer Wilds challenges its players to develop a special relationship with uncertainty, and it does so from the moment your character opens their eyes.

Knowledge is an unending adventure at the edge of uncertainty.

Jacob Bronowski

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