5Many years ago, my mother received a small Chinese puzzle box as a Christmas present. It was a handsome little thing, and she has it still. One day, I entertained myself by opening and closing it, and on a whim I write a little scrap of shitty teenager poetry on a stray piece of paper, tied it up with a string, and enclosed it in the box.
About a year ago, I opened the box back up to find the piece of paper still in there. I read my work and found it to be not as brilliant as I’d remembered it.
Now: Here’s where my recollection breaks down. Did I tie my little scroll back up and put it back in the box? Did I write a new one to replace it with? Something in between, writing an ‘improved’ version to enclose? Or did I throw away the scrap of paper and pretend I’d never put it there?
There’s a whole different kind of secret which we call by the same name. We have our dark se(c)rets, the things we can’t let others know or, we fear, it might destroy us. But then there are secrets like my secret puzzle-box note, and like Frog Fractions, that are created to be discovered. And what if they aren’t discovered? Are they wasted?
Well, some people think so, which is why such concepts are not popular in the development of high-budget games. Difficulty is eroded, exploration destroyed, so that everything can be displayed on the surface of the game, a sense of creepy egalitarianism forcing everyone to have the same superficial experience instead of allowing fewer people to have a deep and meaningful experience.
Some people won’t get it. Some people won’t see under the surface. Some people will play Braid and laugh and make whooping noise as they play with time. Hey, at least they’re having fun. But providing a deep and meaningful experience is not a goal concordant with making an accessible one.