I struggle to connect with photos of Earth’s natural beauty without my globe-trotting grandmother. She used to prop me up on her lap, pinch a photograph of a hillside or a lake at the corners between her thumbs and fore fingers, and then tell me about her journey of how she got to this point on the Earth, and the people and events she saw along the way.
I find that a picture without this human touch tied to it in some form feels shallow and flat no matter the visual magnificence it may hold.
Remember that famous scene in American Beauty in which Ricky Fitts shows Jane Burnham a video recording of a plastic bag floating around in a gust of wind? Without Ricky sharing that it was one of those days “when it’s a minute away from snowing and there’s this electricity in the air”, and that “this bag was just dancing with [him]. Like a little kid begging [him] to play with it,” it would just be a boring video of a plastic bag in the wind.
For me, establishing a connection with anything requires emotional context, or to have a story behind it.
Unfortunately, Sergey Gerasimenko doesn’t sit next to you and tell you tales while playing OFFS3T. But his game does cause you to appreciate icebergs, still lakes, and crumbling lonely buildings in a field a little more than you might if you were to just look at them on a piece of card.
This is achieved by turning the images into a reward for solving puzzles. Not just any old puzzles, either; the puzzles in OFFS3T are glitchy, broken, and distorted versions of the images that you need to fix. You do this by fitting pieces of the image into the larger picture like a jigsaw, and rotating wheels or lines that have been carved into them to match up the image as it should be.
There are more variants on this puzzle design, but not all of them work as well. Specifically, I’m referring to the ones which aren’t puzzles, but simply require you to click on jumbled up squares to return them to their original place in the photo.
What does work are the puzzles in which you have to understand the complexion of the image, and examine the details, in order to restore it. When you do, you’re given the entire photo to look at, all at once, which gives you more of an appreciation of it. It helps that a serene soundtrack keeps the tone relaxed and makes you more receptive to the visual beauty your eyes may be witnessing.
If you fancy giving OFFS3T a go, you can play it in your browser right here.