As 0°N 0°W opens, I am getting into a car. I am driving through a city. I am crossing wide open spaces. I come to the wild planes of the old west. There are nondescript noises, too much to take in, flashes of cars and fields and signs. Until I click my mouse. Now there is nothing. Me, my car, one lit storefront. I walk in. I think I hear music in the distance.
I asked the developer of 0°N 0°W if this was a game or an art piece. He told me that he couldn’t say; as he put it, while there’s fun to be found in “running and jumping about”, where do we draw the line? What is an art piece – does a game require contrived goal posts, markers of progress? The best someone of this mindset could hope to find here are doorways. Sometimes far into the distance, sometimes stacked in endless rows. Doorways to new spaces and sounds and feelings.
There is, then, no central narrative here, and no objective. You will take away from 0°N 0°W only so much as you are willing to put in; come to this too closed off and you may walk away with the ‘walking simulator’ taste in your mouth. Dear Esther, Gone Home and Proteus have their detractors. But bring me your meditative, your depressed, your anxious, your psychonauts – and I will give them 0°N 0°W.
I’d argue the value of 0°N 0°W is in its intimacy. I played with headphones on in a dark room and caught myself in an uneasy headspace. Did I just see a flash of light? What was that movement? Where was I? But at other times I ran headlong into the unknown, jumping and climbing some alien architecture for the hell of it. The game was indifferent, but I gave it meaning. I told myself two more doors and stayed for 10. I turned it off, walked away and came straight back. It is hard to explain exactly what 0°N 0°W is, or wants to be, and that’s its nature. You may well take away an entirely different flavour from your time with it. It is, to be blunt, a non-linear open world with no enemies or health bars or guns. It is you and a world begging to be experienced.
At different times I am reminded of the Stanley Parable’s sense of distrust, of Kentucky Route Zero’s isolation, of vaporwave and psychedelic nights. 0°N 0°W is still in its infancy, with Colorfiction showing it publicly at this week’s EGX in Manchester for the first time. I can’t wait to see what the industry makes of their time on the journey 0°N 0°W offers.