“What might be said of things in themselves, separated from all relationship to our senses, remains for us absolutely unknown” Immanuel Kant
Developer: Party for Introverts
Released: January 2017
Thing in Itself is a short walking/dating sim loosely based on the philosophical works of Immanuel Kant. The game has a simplistic and unusual art style, with 2D objects in a 3D environment. Its stylisation works well and compliments the demonstration of ideas being put forward throughout the experience. The sound is also minimalist but builds at key moments adding to the atmosphere and helping to portray emotions.
Kant’s ‘thing in itself’ philosophy rests on the notion that when a person views an object or even the world, they cannot help but do so with ideas already built into their mind. In philosophy (and metaphysics), a phenomenon is an object, fact, or occurrence that is perceived, they are the objects of the senses rather than what is apprehended by the intellect. In contrast, a noumenon is ‘a thing in itself’ – an object or event that exists independently of human senses or perception.
Kant’s theories raise the question of how much of what we perceive can be trusted to be accurate. We experience everything through ‘tools of understanding’ that vary from person to person, with no way to confirm that any of these perceptions are correct. We cannot know the thing in itself.
The game explores this idea by allowing the player to experience a confined space during the different stages of a relationship, highlighting the differences in the way objects and the environment are perceived throughout. It does this mainly through the naming of objects but uses colour, lighting and sound to represent different moods and add emphasis.
Thing in Itself is part game, part interactive tool to introduce Kant’s ideas. It portrays the concepts a little simplistically but provides a good starting point that may inspire some to delve deeper. It begins by giving a brief explanation of the philosophy, but I felt leaving this until the end would have given the game more impact; allowing the player to ponder the meaning independently would provide a much more satisfying experience.
At around 15 minutes long, Thing in Itself is undoubtedly a short game but the developers are very upfront about this. There is some replay value in a small number of choices, though these are inconsequential overall. If you purchase the game on Steam there are also 10 hidden achievements which are attainable in 2-3 playthroughs.
I enjoyed the experience, and am generally a fan of walking simulators. However, I found Thing in Itself a bit too minimal and despite the low price it still felt a bit too expensive. That being said, I’d still recommended it to anyone intrigued by the concept, especially if it’s on sale!
If you like Thing in Itself, check out our list of free Steam games!