Photo by Alexander Schneider
I waver between thinking game-maker and animator David O’Reilly’s masterpiece, Everything, is something more than a video game and not a video game at all. Playing it feels much more like looking at a painting, or perhaps taking a psychedelic meditation retreat. In the game, the player takes turns controlling hundreds of individual objects and entities that are cartoonish abstractions of our own reality, from giraffes to microconidia to continents, clouds and eventually galaxies. Eventually, one is able to create madcap worlds-within-worlds where a murder of crows might dance with submarines beneath the ocean, or a planet-sized record player plunks out strange noises in space. (There are, interestingly, no human beings roaming O’Reilly’s worlds.)
Two elements lend this beautiful but absurd experience some real weight. The inclusion of hours of joyful and thought-provoking lectures from the great philosopher Alan Watts, and the expansive score from electronic musician Ben Lukas Boysen and contemporary classical composer/musician Sebastian Plano. Their pieces—anchored by Plano’s emotive cello and expanded by Boysen’s towering, organic ambient structures—are otherworldly and full of wonder. They swell and fade unexpectedly as the player tinkers, and they evoke something more than just beauty. They evoke awe. It is a remarkable experience, and the resulting Everything soundtrack—on the venerable Erased Tapes label—stands on its own as a startling piece of art. We spoke to Boysen and Plano via video chat, as they were drinking beers at Boysen’s home in Berlin.