Opera Omnia

The power of games vs. other forms of media, to me, comes from interactivity.  Whereas a book can tell you something, only a game can force you to understand something through your own actions.  While a movie may be able to show you the motivations of someone, a game can motivate you to act like that someone, or to think like that someone, at least in a limited sense.

Opera Omnia is a rare example of a game that takes full advantage of the unique benefit of interactivity.  The idea is that you are, basically, a historian that tries to work out what happened in the past to create the population you have using a wonderfully simple program that accurately tracks the migration routes and growth rates of the citizens.

Opera Omnia (stolen from TIGS)

However, (and if you haven’t played the game then stop reading now,) you come to find out that what you are doing isn’t that accurate at all.  In fact, you’re really trying to create a scenario that can account for the future while making the past whatever you want it to be.  There’s a reason that he put the present on the left and the past on the right; the modification of the past is your end goal.  This is a difficult realization to come to, frankly, because it’s just so backwards from what anyone would normally do. 

It took me about 15 of the game’s 20 stages to finally come to that realization, but when I did, it was pretty amazing.  Not only do you have to “play” the system to win, but that’s the whole point.  In the end, you basically justify the genocide of an entire race by exploiting the system that you are given. 

So in that sense, Opera Omnia makes you think, not just act, like the character you are playing.  Any game can force you to act like somebody.  The Doom Guy would blast through zombie marines from hell with a shotgun, sure, but you do it because that’s the only way to proceed with the game.  You have no motivation other than that.

Opera Omnia motivates you with a goal, sure, but to reach that goal, you have to come to certain conclusions on your own, such as the malleability of “facts” and history, and how easy it is to come out with a “scientific” conclusion based on your own opinion.

It’s not perfect.  There are a couple of stages that maybe explain a bit TOO much, and the last stage is a disappointment as far as the puzzle itself, but I’d say it’s a pretty good use of thirty minutes to an hour.

And beyond all of that, it’s just fun as hell to play.

P.S. My computer exploded in a violent ball of fiery flames (or just started acting funny and I broke it, whatever) so, uh, updates may be slow to come.  Yay.

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  1. #1 by monkeyvault on September 27, 2009 - 8:25 PM

    Okay, I just spent like 20 minutes trying to figure out that damned game so I could read the rest of the update, and I still had no freaking idea what I was doing. Holy crap that was annoying. I mean, I realize putting the past on the right side was all MAKING A POINT and stuff, but it made it freaking impossible to understand what I was doing. Man. What the hell. WHAT THE HELL.

    I finally gave up and just read this, because my brain doesn’t function in the world of indie games. Sry. Still, it’s an awesome concept to have a game that pushes you into believing false logic, and then tells you what a tool you are.

  2. #2 by Clint Emsley on October 1, 2009 - 1:16 PM

    I dunno…how far did you get into the article before you tried to play the game? I might have ruined it.

    Anyway, I don’t know if that was actually the INTENTION to make a point, but it sure came off as such to me. And honestly, I just clicked stuff until I understood it, and the concept really only hit home about 3 missions before the game ended. It was a lot like Portal, except with no good way of explaining how it worked.

    But yeah. I suppose this game is not for everybody.

  3. #3 by monkeyvault on October 1, 2009 - 3:46 PM

    I read until the point where you told me to stop reading. Then I ran to find the game.

    I don’t think I have the patience to figure out a game when the mechanics are hard/badly explained. When I sit there going “wot” for more than like, 10 minutes, I generally just give up. Because I’m a pussy. So, it might be an awesome game for people with an attention span over 4. (4 what, you ask? I’m not really sure. I’m working on an official Attention Span Scale.) I also might just be ***CENSORED***. Maybe the game mechanics are totally simple, and I’m just to ***CENSORED*** for it.

    EDIT BY CLINT: for everyone’s sake I edited this comment on 9/24/2013. It was sort of offensively worded before and I know this no longer represents my sister. maybe this is wrong but I was cringing when I read this, and I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea. :)

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