It is a command you anticipate on a loading screen of some epic video game. You remain trapped, in its limbo. Your thumbs sweat with anticipation, what could be lying just beyond this screen? Sometimes, it doesn’t take long before you are back in the game; other times, time becomes your arduous enemy. The upside to being between between levels or respawns? You are reminded of possible Tips for the adventure ahead. They hang like captions at the bottom of the screen, where they inform you of helpful combos, weapon upgrades, and healing items.
Then finally, you are greeted with this flashing sign:
That is, if you have a PS4, like me.
The world opens up. You let curiosity get the better of you, and –just for a moment– you explore the ins and outs to your world, your story. The monsters herald their close proximity, but you don’t fret because you are well-equipped–with weapons, that is–to fight the next fight. Before you do, however, why not discover a new world? Leave the monster, the dialogue cutaways, for the best part of the game: secrets.
These hidden places that make this level worth exploring. Sure, you can move the story forward, fight a mini-boss or two, a bitchin’ bout of stealth kills. However, you will never get to find the easter eggs, the nerdy reference to other games, hidden behind a decrepit closet or underneath a fallen roof. It is there, just look.
It is one thing to take joy in these secrets. It is another to make that your goal. To always find the hidden things, a beacon into the hearts and minds of its creators. Each one an homage to the greats before them, or in their neck of the woods. For example, the new Doom gives a playful nod to its origins by hiding the original 8-bit levels into its gameplay. You simply have to look for a lever, then find a portal to this otherworld. Hell, even Pixar accomplishes callback by incorporating other characters, like a fallen Woody toy in an Incredibles world. We create these beacons because we want to feel understood, or just to show off our nerdy chops.
We all seek connection, to reach out to our worlds in hopes that our touch meets another, one that vibrates at the same 4k frequency. When you do find them, you will recall its nod to a past Atari game, or just a hidden code to transform your world, a Mod, into a foggy little place called Silent Hill.
On the other hand, the X button is a command, to stay alive, to take that new weapon, to open that door that leads to these hidden places. Sometimes you walk into them, other times, much like this theme, all it takes is a simple press of a button, to say yes to (the dress) this brave new world and make the most of it.
While our world may not be as epic or dangerous as our favorite arcade/video games, it is vital to apply this curiosity into your own life.
Go then, there are more worlds than these. –Jake Chambers, the Dark Tower by Stephen King.
We live in an open-world, one where it can manifest our greatest accomplishments. Sure we can settle for the career, the partner, the family of four, the minivan, but we can also get the secret levels to our life. The front-row tickets to your favorite band, the escape room, the ideal roommate. We rely on these secret worlds because they are the hidden places to our own heart, a slot, just big enough for a quarter, or a joystick.
Don’t worry about how it might affect your gameplay. The game’s story relies on you moving forward in the game, not based on how many different secrets you find along the way. Whatever quest you’re on in this life, make it unforgettable. Make it worth buying all the DLC and Mods.