Video games have been accused of just about everything in the past three decades, haven't they?
But if there's one genre that continually sticks it to the naysayers, it's the puzzle genre. The adventure genre and parts of the role-playing category have also produced some extremely creative and cerebral interactive experiences, but innovative puzzlers continue to fight the good fight.
As an example, I was never much good at Jonathon Blow's first acclaimed puzzler, Braid . There are certain puzzle games that simply don't click with you and this was one of them. On the flip side, I can say wonderful titles like Portal 2 , Echochrome and Limbo have all satisfied me greatly. While some such games have more action/adventure elements than others, they all tax the brain in one way or another throughout the experience.
And based on what I'm hearing of The Witness so far, it's yet another winner . It reminds me that in fact, there is indeed something beyond the flash and substance-less blockbusters, that innovative puzzlers can – and should – have a place in the industry. I know they're not massive crowd-pleasers; I know they'll never bring in heaps of money. But they're critical, not only for the reputation of the industry (which everyone claims not to care about, but probably should), but also because of the very different entertainment they afford.
It always surprises me how much different games like The Witness are when compared to standard titles that mostly revolve around action. When you play puzzle-based adventures, you start to realize that you almost never play any game where your fingers aren't doing anything for extended periods of time. And when you do experience a game like that, and you find your brain working overtime as opposed to your fingers, it turns into a completely different interactive experience. It just ticks completely different boxes, if that makes any sense.
At any rate, you have to commend designers who tend to favor this genre. They're not making the next Call of Duty or Assassin's Creed but that's okay, because we don't need more of those.