Puzzling Purpose in Statik: Institution of Retention

Even if we don’t get the answer, Statik: Institute of Retention illustrates the value of asking “Why?”

Written by Zach Carpenter / Published on January 4, 2018

"Statik constantly kept the answer of my purpose just out of reach."
Friedrich Nietzche once said, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” Imagine a trip without a destination, a painting without an inspiration, a job without a meaning or a life without a purpose. These ideas are not exciting to contemplate and possibly even a little depressing. As people, we are drawn to the idea of a purpose. What would someone do if he or she were left without a purpose? Statik: The Institution of Retention helped me answer this question.

Statik is a Playstation VR game based around a simple concept. You are in a chair with a puzzling device strapped around your hands. Each button on the Dual-Shock 4 activates something on the device. Through trial and error, your job is to figure out how to solve the specific puzzle/test of the device around your hands. You do this while a blurry faced scientist observes and occasionally makes statements about your progress. Statik never gives you a clear reason for solving these puzzles or for answering the different questions the scientist asks you. At one point the scientist simply demands a response.

“Sorry, can I ask you to re-enter that last one? (referring to a response you made to a question) just for… well… do it.” – scientist

It was not until several puzzles into the game that I stopped and thought, “This scientist has not told me why I am solving all these puzzles.” This struggle to understand my purpose in this game kept me thinking about Statik even when I wasn’t playing. I am someone that needs a reason to do something. This applies to what I do while gaming and my everyday life. In my mind, if something lacks a “why” then it probably isn’t worth doing. Further, when a purpose is not given, a lack of value is communicated. As the scientist continued to watch me solve different puzzles, there was a sense that he didn’t value my character or even me as a player. It was demeaning.

This lack of purpose and value did not stop me from continually complying to the scientist’s every request, but I was not sure why. Was I wanting to solve the puzzles to simply show the scientist I am smart, valuable and worth taking note of? Statik constantly kept the answer of my purpose just out of reach. I kept solving the puzzles with the hope that each solution was getting me closer to discovering both their purpose and mine.

As I continued to play, I realized something. With such a internal desire to have a purpose for everything I do, my mind had created a purpose for myself in order to continue playing. My purpose was to discover the purpose of the puzzles.

As Statik came to an end and I solved my final puzzle, my purpose was never made 100% clear, but rather I was left with something I didn’t expect. A moment of self reflection. I sat there as the credits rolled asking myself philosophical questions about gaming and about life. Perhaps the purpose was not to give me a reason to solve each puzzle, but rather to help me begin to ask a simple question about everything I do. The question Statik taught me to ask is: “Why?”

About the Author:

Zach lives in Idaho where he serves as a youth pastor, goes on adventures with his wife and 3 kids, plays games and drinks lots of coffee. You can follow him on twitter @zachwcarpenter or on his website that he occasionally updates: www.ZachWCarpenter.com.