You see, every piece of the puzzle is required to complete the scene, while some have rough edges and some smooth, they all have value. Being grateful for each piece is not always easy, but it is necessary. – Greg Dutilly
Gorogoa allowed me a fresh look at my own life’s puzzles and the oddly shaped pieces and frames that create it
On a recent trip to my parents’ house, a card table sat among the usual living room furniture. On it, a box and a scattering of small, colorful cardboard puzzle pieces. Throughout the rest of my trip, everyone took turns wandering to the table, sitting down and working out parts of the puzzle. Pieces were picked up, laid down, picked up again, turned, laid down again. Human beings have long been understandably fascinated by puzzles. They give us the feeling of creating order out of something chaotic; piecing together a picture out of sometimes nonsensical, fractured parts. We see our lives in these pieces and find comfort in placing everything back where it belongs.
Gorogoa, a game that revolves around puzzles, is a story about one boy’s life and the hundreds of pieces that are picked up, shifted and fit together to create it. The player is given a box with four spaces that they can use to interact with the “scenes” of the puzzle. You guide the young protagonist as he collects five magical items that portray different points in the boy’s future. Each new area of the puzzle catapults the player through history and providence, asking you to do more than just find a piece of the overall picture, but to use reason, and a bit of science, to aide the boy in his journey.
Artist and Creator of Gorogoa, Jason Roberts, has said that the title of the game, and the multicolored, dragon-like creature seen flying in the background throughout the pieces, is a reference to a monster Roberts invented in childhood. The monster follows the game’s main character throughout his life, popping in and out of scenes. It’s always looming in the background, serving as the game’s visual guide.
Unpacking the fragmented pieces of the window-like frame of Goroga lays out meticulous and mechanized illustrations of what we perceive to be the man’s thoughts or dreams. The layers piece together a story: a man pouring over a book about constellations, a boy falling from a precifice, a study’s ceiling crumbling as the world around it groans. Gorogoa’s gameplay not only serves its purpose of providing an interesting way to solve puzzles, but also provides a representation of our own disassembly. Moments in our lives that require shifting and rearranging. Out of place scenes from our past that fit perfectly with the pieces of our present.
They give us the feeling of creating order out of something chaotic; piecing together a picture out of sometimes nonsensical, fractured parts.
Playing Gorogoa allowed me a fresh look at my own life’s puzzles and the oddly shaped pieces and frames that create it. And even though there are areas that are still largely unfinished and I have no idea what the final picture will look like, I can take pride in the scenes I have finished—usually, like the puzzle at my parents’ house, due to the assistance of my family and friends. I would like to think that the artist/creator of the game felt similar, working through both the tough and beautiful parts of his life as he drew fruit still-lifes, dragons, old men at desks and boys climbing ladders.
There’s a familiarity to the game that, I believe, goes beyond puzzle-solving. I like to think it’s because it reminds us of how, our entire lives, we try to piece together the world around us and our place in it. Sure, there are times where the scenes that are jumbled in front of us are bleak, baffling or hard, but, oh, the satisfaction of hearing that soft “click” once the pieces connect together and as, slowly, the masterpiece is revealed. Gorogoa shows us that no matter the difficulty level, a puzzle is always worth solving and that the beautiful details of a life can always be revealed with help, ingenuity and a little hard work.