There’s a great moment of technological orgasm in videogames when the camera zooms back to reveal the enormity of a landscape. You drink in a sunset peering over the canopy of a forest, or the blinking lights of a dark metropolis, and are supposed to respond with a very onomatopoeic “wow.” It’s big budget gaming’s money shot.
The dramatics of the dioramic shot has become a pastiche in marketing for enormous virtual worlds, seemingly ignited by Todd Howard’s promise that, in Skyrim, “You can climb to the top of any mountain.” This line was imitated in the pre-release promises of Borderlands 2 and The Witcher 3, which resulted in enough screenshots gratuitously filled with snow-topped mountains that you’d think the Himalayas were trying for Photo Bomber of the Year.
Even Nintendo’s Eiji Aonuma did his best Howard impression while unveiling the next Zelda game for Wii U at E3 this year, sitting in front of a panoramic view of Hyrule. It’s all in aid of creating the illusion of scale and size as that’s a high-tech feat and therefore worth the contents of your wallet, or so goes the logic.
Miopia has none of the executive rhapsody or nympholetic cheer, but its spiralling play does reach the same zenith as one of those teasing camera zoom-outs. It’s an “endless devourer” set inside a microscopic world of blobby organisms with an endearing crayon-drawn look. You forever float, consume, and grow. It’s possible to become kilometers in size.
Breaching the barrier of your first enclosure by gobbling up the guards is the first moment of awe in Miopia as your sense of scale both widens and shrinks. You feel simultaneously tiny and huge. You can’t help but constantly compare your current size to the small spaces in which you started, while being acutely aware of the clumsy giants bouncing off the walls around you.
It’s like playing through The Scale of the Universe with the scroll wheel function replaced by mass consumption. Both experiences allow us to peer in at all the wonder and terror of the universe and its engulfing size. Fittingly, some of the blobs in Miopia wear terrified faces like they’ve just realized the futility of their existence. Play Miopia for long enough yourself and these faces become mirrors. You’ll realize that the blobs reflect our own existence, the ever-expanding world around them is our universe, and oh god everything is pointless and what have you been doing all your life, and…
Fortunately, there are yellow nutrients to collect that will distract you from that nihilistic pitfall. They’re the diversionary comfort food that’ll keep you from those bigger thoughts—the biscuits I ate when at the depths of my depression. Usually they’re found hiding tantalizingly inside a curl of spikes, or past a corridor lined with nipping claws. Maneuvering your spinning blob through these tight spaces has the severity of a driving test, which means you’ll be far too pre-occupied to ponder the nature of your existence.
These nutrients are useless without the energy balls required to harness their power of evolution. But these catalysts are so rare that you’ll be driven to a ravenous pursuit when you do see one. Funny moments can be had if you’re already too big to fit into the tight space that houses the energy ball. The desperate scene has all the hallmarks of comedy and pity that the crammed entrance to a Walmart on Black Friday does. You’ll learn to treasure these distractions from the game’s infinite size and its looming reminder of your own inefficacy.
Given that one of the most desirous features of videogames is a tremendous sense of scale, Miopia should be thought of as videogame ambrosia. Either that, or a warning of the potential horror of videogame worlds becoming too big. Alas, it won’t be considered either of those things, not without a distant mountain for a talking head to boast about. But that doesn’t make it any less a magnificent, infinitely scaling distillation of our fascination with the spectacle of enormity, and the unfathomable horror of the expanding universe.