A social experiment with The Unfinished Swan

I have been itching to play the Unfinished Swan since its release last year, but recently this
idea came to me; what would a gamer do with this game if they had no prior knowledge of
the title such as the game mechanics behind it? Hopefully this does not spoil anything for
you, but the game mechanic at the very beginning of the game is you are in complete
whiteness and you can throw black paint balls to see where pieces of the environment lay.
Since I read reviews and coverage of the game, the first minute or so of the game was
spoiled for me, but of course it had to be for me to be intrigued by it. But what if it hadn't?
What if someone's guiding hand brought me to this inaugural white screen and I had no
clue what was going on? Well for me that was out of the window, but my girlfriend who gets
90% of her game knowledge from me had no clue what this game was. Perfect.

So I sat her down, let her watch the thirty-second intro, and then the screen went all white
and left her with a small black reticle. The next two minutes were amazing watching her
trying to figure out what to do. To give this a little more context, my girlfriend doesn't play
first person games. She mainly plays RPG's so she is not great with twin sticks and isn't
use to pulling a lot of trigger buttons; both things are crucial to this game especially the
triggers. Her first instinct was to move with the left stick and press all the face buttons. I
quickly heard what sounded like jumping and then running with a little bit of panting. After
some exploration she seemed confused as what was going on. Why is the screen
completely white? Where am I looking? What am I supposed to do? She exclaimed "Did I
not pay enough attention during the intro?" Maybe, but all the narrator mentions is that our
protagonist brings with him a paint brush into this other world, not really much to go off of. I
stayed silent.

She decides to leave her comfort zone and test the other buttons and after trying both Start
and Select, which only cause her to pause the game, she finally pulls the R2 button and to
grand surprise a big glob of black paint splatters right in front of her. A giant "Ah
ha!" escaped her lips. This is where the enjoyable experiment concludes for me since she
quickly figured out that she had to splatter this black paint around to find her path in the
game, and that's exactly what she did. Regardless, the first two minutes still resonate with

The exciting part for me, which I heard about many times from the developer as they
observed first-timers, is the sense of exploration and experimentation. It's fascinating to
watch the gears work. Giant Sparrow, the developers of the game, often commented on
how different people would approach the game. Many had the same troubles at the start,
but also how people played the game once getting the mechanics down is captivating.
Some people would paint the world in darkness while others only threw enough paint to
mark the path forward. I like to think I found a middle ground, but maybe landed on the
farther end of paint happy.

I can only imagine what it's like to show this game at a Con where no one has any clue
what it is. I bet the buzz about it spread like wild fire. Sadly I had not played, or like the
developers built, the game in the time I observed my girlfriend playing, so after the first two
minutes I was as much in the dark as she wasn't - pardon the pun, she actually did a great
job not covering everything with paint trapping herself in darkness.

The Unfinished Swan is a charming game and this example is just the paintbrush's tip to the
rest of the game. I implore you to put the brush to the canvas on this one and explore all the
depths provided by the ink that lie underneath the surface (Great writing starts with great
similes... right?) If you have enjoyed The Unfinished Swan, let's chat in the comments
below, and also share your great stories of exploration and experimentation with the game.
with us. But until next time...


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