A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Everything isn't so much a game as a simulation that explores the philosophy of Alan Watts. Watts was in part responsible for helping popularize Eastern philosophy and especially Zen with Western audiences. Everything describes itself as "an interactive experience where everything you see is a thing you can be, from animals to planets to galaxies and beyond." There are no goals to accomplish, enemies to defeat, or anything to do other than experience a variety of perspectives and reflect on them.
What's it about?
EVERYTHING isn't a conventional video game. Instead, it seeks to not aggressively challenge notions and expectations of what a video game should be. While other games present you with goals to accomplish, enemies to vanquish, and a story to explore, Everything is, quite simply, an exploration of philosophy. You begin as a creature and explore until the game allows you to shift or switch to creatures that are smaller than it. You do this until you reach the subatomic and string theory level (one-dimensional particles of light and so on), at which point the game allows you to switch to larger entities (boulders, continents, galaxies). You can speak to and listen to other beings but only to hear what they have to say. There's no greater purpose other than to listen and take it in. From time to time, you are able to find a creature or object that has a quote from philosopher Alan Watts that will play as you continue on your way. His selected teachings on display here are the centerpiece of the themes that helped inspire the game.
Is it any good?
Confining this game to claims of "good" or "bad" would miss its point, as it's open to interpretation, not traditional approaches taken to other video games. That is, the game will "penalize" you for playing too long at one go (about two hours) with an instituted "Looney Tunes"-style "We'll be right back!" screen to give you a breather. That's part of the game's total appeal, which is that it's not a game but instead a weighty experience that allows you to explore, discover, and understand its depth at your own pace. Indeed, the game doesn't even really "need" you: If you let the controller sit idle long enough, it will play itself. Obviously, when you take agency and play the game yourself, it will feel more like you're actively understanding and mining its meaning -- but there's also something to be said for sitting back and observing from another perspective. That's the point of Everything, which is that we're all observers and participants in something bigger (or smaller) than ourselves.
Are there things the game could do more smoothly? Sure, but these are nitpicks. Arguably the lengthy Alan Watts quotes are superfluous -- a somewhat clumsy implied notion that the player isn't "smart enough" to understand the themes being explored here and needing them to be laid out literally for you to listen to while you play. But Everything implements these clips smoothly. Otherwise, the on-screen text can be too small. These are the only strikes imaginable against the game, as it really is a sublime, involving, and relaxing experience. You can go at your own pace, see what you want to see, and return to your life feeling better about yourself or better understanding your place in it. It's hard to grade that, other than to say it's definitely a positive.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about spiritual identity. Why do you believe what you believe? Why do you think other people try to change your mind or challenge your ideas about what you seem to believe naturally?
Do you think about harmony in the universe? Why, or why not? What do you make of a video game that tries to get you to think about it?
Why are so many video games violent or destructive? In other words, how often do you think people have ideas for games that are different from what you normally see on shelves, and why do you think so many games that wind up on shelves are violent?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.