I’ve been playing a whole lot of Noby Noby Boy lately. It’s oddly addictive, and a whole lot of fun. I’m sure everyone is familiar with the premise – or lack thereof - of Noby Noby Boy, to stretch. As I’ve sat for hours on end just seeing all there is to see in Noby Noby Boy, I’ve come to see that the game possesses within it a great amount of philosophical depth, intended or not.The most basic philosophy of Noby noby Boy is one which creator Keita Takahasi hasn’t kept quiet about, the idea of “Noby Noby.” The term nobi means “to stretch” in and it’s often used in the same way we in the west would use terms like “chill.” The idea is to let loose, relax, and enjoy life. The game play undoubtedly presents this idea to us with its total lack of structure, the absence of objectives, etc., just Boy and a whole lot of stuff.
Going beyond that basic idea, there is much more to be found within Noby Noby Boy. In particular, I’ve found Noby Noby Boy to work as an allegory for life. I’d like to relate this to the philosophy of the French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre wrote that we make ourselves, and that existence precedes essence. He means by this that we exist before have a reason to exist, an essence. He often used Calvinists to describe a group who were of the opposing viewpoint, that essence precedes existence. The Calvinists believe that we are to live lives of total depravity and service to God, this is our only function in life. Before we are born, they believe, we as humans have a presupposed purpose, to devote our lives to God. Sartre’s view is that we have no purpose, we’re simply thrown into life, without control over gender, situation, and so on. We, through living, create our own purpose.
Noby Noby Boy falls in line with Sartre’s ideas. You’re thrown into a world full of abstract objects and odd humanoids with the ability to walk around, eat, andstretch. You aren’t sent into each world with a specific purpose, you have no preset objectives or goals. You, as you play, create these things, not simply for yourself and your character, but for every random object in each area. You and every facet of every level exist without any true purpose, any true essence, and your job is to make it. You have the choice to eat everything, play basketball with the clouds, whatever you can imagine. You, the player, create the purpose. Existence precedes essence.
Going back to simpler things now, I’ll show you some other ideas that the elements of Noby Noby Boy present, though I’ll continue to illustrate how the game can perhaps be representative of our lives. One very interesting element of the game is the concept of Girl stretching from planet to planet. She began at the moon, and as players stretch themselves, she is now working her way to Mars. From there, presumably she will move on to Jupiter, then Saturn, and so on. All things being perfect, Girl good even move out of our solar system, even out of our galaxy. No matter how much the players stretch, Girl can still stretch longer, out further into the unknown. We’re like girl in our lives. No matter what we do, there is always more to discover, we can always improve on ourselves, and we can see new things.
On the other hand, each level could be said to represent our limitations. Girl stretches limitlessly, but how much we can stretch her is limited to Boy and the worlds he is in. Players must go from level to level, eating and stretching more, but we are limited by the size of the stage and the rules that dictate it. Once again, similar to life: our only limiting factors are physical things.
What’s particularly wonderful about Noby Noby Boy is that we can all take from it whatever we want. It would be completely valid of you to discard my ideas and make the claim that there is nothing to it, it’s all pointless. That would actually be compatible with what I have to say, and would fit well within the allegory for life. Just like Noby Noby Boy, you can take your life, say it’s meaningless, and discard it.
What I truly love about this game is how playing it is the only way to understand it. You won’t quite capture what I’m trying to state in this blog if you haven’tplayed the game. What separates it from other games is that it must be played to be understood. Recall the months leading up to the game, when Keita Takahashi failed to adequately explain what it was about, and videos only left us more confused. Once we played it, it made sense. The game can’t be replicated in other mediums, it must be played. Taking it back to our lives, you have to live to really understand what life is all about.
I hope you all enjoyed the read, and I’d love to see what you all have to say. The more I play, the more observations I see can be made about the game. Contrasts to Japanese art and art history, the idea of society and working together, and many more ideas are still swimming in my head. It’s fascinating how much there is to such a simple little game like Noby Noby Boy.