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Polygonal Slant | December 17, 2017

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The Unfinished Swan: Viewing the World, Blind.

The Unfinished Swan: Viewing the World, Blind.
Imad Khan

Instead of complete darkness, it was complete whiteness. Everything was bright, but nothing could be seen. The only tool I had was the ability to throw black paint within this blank space. The only things that were then perceived were the things the paint touched. In other words, if the black paint didn’t hit anything, it didn’t exist, in my mind at least. I’m referring to The Unfinished Swan, a game on the Playstation Network, and suffice to say, it left a lasting impression.

There are many facets to the game I could go into, but I want to concentrate on one; The initial level. In this level you are thrown into a white space and are give black paint to throw around. The reason this level left such a lasting impression, is because for the first time in my life I felt blind.

I recall listening to an episode of This American Life, and there was a story of a blind man who was talking about staying at a hotel. When he initially walked into his room, he felt around, trying to make sense of the space. Eventually he found his bearings and went to sleep. He soon heard a phone ring, this was a surprise to him for he had no recollection of a phone being there. He got up, started to look around, but could not find it. He knew it was coming from somewhere in the room, but he couldn’t pinpoint where. Eventually he realized that there was another area in the room that he did not come across during his initial walk through. Feelings of disorientation and frustration overcame him.

That was the feeling I had when playing through the first level in The Unfinished Swan. It is odd that I am recommending everyone to play a game that makes them feel vulnerable and disoriented, but it’s really something everyone should experience once in their lives to gain a better appreciation for what it feels like to be blind.

I must of course preface with that I am not blind, nor have I ever been, but from playing this level, to some extent it gives you the feeling of sightlessness. Of course there’s the black paint. This is our visual cue, so playing through this first level isn’t at all experiencing actual blindness, but parallels can be made. Someone who is blind can only perceive the world through touch and smell. Things that are touched are the things that are perceived. If something is left untouched, it is not perceived. In the episode of This American Life, the man didn’t realize that there was another part of the room with a telephone, therefore to him, he went to sleep believing only in the apartment he touched. In the same way, I could only perceive what I threw paint on. There is a very strong chance that there was a chair, statue, desk, or whatever else that was in that room, but because I never actually threw paint on it, I never experienced it, therefore it never existed.

The saying, “if a tree falls in a forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” now holds more weight to me than it did in the past. Regardless, games should be given more credit for their ability to pull someone outside of their comfort zone. To put me in a situation in which I felt blind, no movie or book has yet to have that effect on me. I recommend everyone give The Unfinished Swan a chance and see how it affects you.

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