Be Exactly What It Says: The Watcher

Hey, what are those little fellas up to?

Whoa whoa, hey there! What are you doing in such a hurry? Are you trying to play The Watcher? There’s a fairly big clue in the name there, buddy. It’s a short game you can poke at in your browser for free. You might want to play with the little aliens building a spaceship, but they’re a skittish sort. Don’t touch anything. You’ve got to wait. Sit back and watch the hand-drawn cuties scampering, and enjoy the music. When your time to interact does come, you might wish it hadn’t.

The Watcher was an experiment in “gameplay without gameplay”, a game where you can’t even move your mouse without scaring the little folks away. If you grumble and roll your eyes at phrases like that, hey, at worst you get to watch a pleasant little animation. You do take an active role at one point, mind, and it might leave your arms sore. Top tip: try hitting as many keys as you can at once.

It was made by Turtle Cream, the South Korean studio also behind 6180 The Moon and Sugar Cube: Bittersweet Factory, back in 2012. It’s only now comes to my attention by appearing on several game portals, following a showing at an exhibition in the Seoul National University Museum of Art. I would’ve liked to see how it worked out in an exhibition space, whether it delighted or bewildered or both or.


  1. NegativeZero says:

    Misread title as The Witcher and was very confused for a bit.

  2. RaoulDuke says:

    Ich bin verwirrt.

    Alice? Please halp, What the H do I do when the “message” comes up? I nearly broke my silly chiclet keyboard. Am I missing something?

  3. Snargelfargen says:

    It only appears as a tiny window in the upper left of my browsers (firefox, IE and Metro IE), so I’m going to have to give this a pass for now. Too bad, would have been perfect for an otherwise all too quiet day at work.

  4. Conundrummer says:

    I’m a big proponent of fostering the discussion on games as art, so please see this as jumpstarting the argument:

    Isn’t classifying this as a “game” going a bit too far? Interactive movies have been a part of the medium since the possibility of animations, but at a certain point, a passively-watched animation is an “animation”. Yes, you do have to mash buttons to “win” at this, but why should that be critiqued any less than the QTE’s we’ve been laughing at since Shenmue? If not for that little bit of interactivity, this could just be any random video on Vimeo or Youtube, but instead it just comes across as a 1995 HyperCard animation.

    I wonder what the long-lasting social critiques would be if “Cookie Clicker” had just been called “The Clicker”.


      QTE’s are ridiculous, but no one had argued that they’re not “games” to my knowledge. Quite the opposite – they’re an attempt to make custscenes “gamier” but fail because they’re not as “gamey” as the game they’re inside.

      The fact that interaction is the defining feature of a game doesn’t mean that a game is rated by how interactive it is. (That’s as fallacious as saying that, because editing is a fundamental technique of film, Hitchcock’s Rope isn’t a film.) The most praised part of the first Modern Warfare was a moment with minimum interaction; and of the first Bioshock was one where it was forcefully removed. Of course, one could argue those moments only worked because they were juxtaposed against the highly interactive power fantasies of a manshoot, but it still sets precedent that interactivity is not on a binary scale where the more you have the better the game is. Leon Arnott’s Certain Defeat is almost literally just an animation, but it only works because it presents itself to you as a game.

      As for this game, you mistakenly assume that because the player does not press anything there is no interaction. A command not to interact is, by itself, a form of interaction. The player is free to interact; it just leads to a losing state (from which the game resumes). This lack of interaction also serves as an antechamber that maximizes the importance of the interaction in the final section, which, accordingly, is also rated by volume instead of accuracy or tactics or the many ways being good at a game requires; this game only cares about being able to interact very little, and then, very much.