The Witness: Solving the Maze Within Your Mind

It’s no secret that video games teach you life lessons outside of the classroom.  Video games have been proven to enhance people’s cognitive skills that are essential for solving real-world problems.  Jonathan Blow’s The Witness is a unique game that plays upon the philosophy around trial and error.

The Witness is an open world puzzle adventure game created after Jonathan Blow’s initial success with Braid.  The game released on January 26th for the PlayStation 4 and Steam console.  In the first week of its release, The Witness raked in $1 million in sales and sold over 100,000 units.

As you start the game, you wander around a large island surrounded by puzzles everywhere.  These puzzle boxes contain a circle as the starting point which they must trace through maze-like paths to reach the endpoint.  You will face complex and subtle rules that will cause you to alter your thinking strategies.  Such challenges you will run into include colored suns, tree branches, Tetris blocks, and many other unique elements.

Other than discovering puzzle boards within the area, you will discover hidden puzzles located around the environment.  Tracing these secret paths solve a portion of an obelisk, a large black structure with symbols engraved on each side.  Many obelisks are scattered around the island, each containing paths to seek out.

When playing through The Witness, you’ll notice that there is no actual narrative within the game.  With no actual narrative to follow through, what’s the underlying idea behind the game?

As you wander through each section of the island, you are constantly conjuring images in your head when completing each puzzle.  This game teaches you how the brain works and how it thinks in certain situations.  Your brain is a muscle that you exercise daily by solving more puzzles as you go along.  In a recent interview with Gamasutra, Jonathan Blow quotes, “The game is designed to create many opportunities for epiphany moments, both small and large. You know that it’s not just about the solving of problems, but what happens when you do”.  Besides the objective of solving puzzle boards, we can see that there is something bigger happening within the estranged island of The Witness.

Imputing various ideas into the puzzle boxes revolves around the concept called the Computational Complexity Theory.  Computational Complexity Theory is about providing random inputs into an algorithm in order to create a YES or NO answer to a problem.  The puzzle boxes around the island and secret puzzles within the environment play a consistent part of the system.  You don’t really understand how the puzzle operates at first glance, but you develop solutions to test the theories about how everything ties together.

Quintessentially, a witness is the reward for when the successful solution has been found so the game is literally about searching for successful solutions to a problem.  You are the witness in the island, constantly interacting with the gaming environment and drawing up successful strings of YES or NO answers.  The key reward for playing the game is fully understanding how to complete the puzzle and how you went about inputting the solution.

Jonathan Blow’s The Witness has players stranded in an open world filled with mysteries to solve.  Each puzzle will rattle your brain as you constantly draw up new ideas for finding the solution.  Puzzles are displayed everywhere you go, prompting you to think about why you are on the island.  Each puzzle you solve boosts the muscles within your brain that are essential for problem-solving skills.

It is more than just a puzzle game because The Witness teaches you lessons about how the brain operates when faced with a complex problem.  We are all faced with complex problems in our lives, but games like The Witness keys you into the operations of decision-making in everyday life.

If you ever want to boost your problem-solving skills, The Witness is the essential game for exercising your brain daily.


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