Rediscovering Wonder

The mechanical wonders of Factorio.

There was always a strange sort of beauty in train stations. Something about gears in a system fitting together perfectly that had me awestruck. I grew up exploring this feeling in games, tinkering endlessly at redstone contraptions in Minecraft and watching as they worked (or failed in exciting ways). But growing up, this feeling was steadily eroded by the suffocating weight of school, jobs, responsibilities, and experiences. Redstone was a tacked-on feature, and Amtrak is never on time anyways.

This was my first impression of Factorio too. Engaging, but even so my first dozen hours were spent stumbling around like a clueless toddler learning to walk, inspiring more frustration and confusion than anything else. Still I persisted, expanding my factory, gaining experience, making countless mistakes, designing and redesigning, growing all the more excited as my burgeoning competency began to reveal itself. Eventually, I built a respectable network of autonomous machines I was proud to call my own. But the true joy of Factorio didn’t click for me until I finally took a break from my endless renovations, opened the map, and zoomed out.

I saw my trains flying into loading stations I designed, items racing past on conveyor belts swiftly transformed into useful products, entering and exiting the system at countless points. I saw it as the living, breathing organism it was, not a collection of static parts but instead a beautifully programmed symphony with me as its magnificent biological conductor.

From that point I loved just as much sitting back watching my factory work as I did actually playing the game. It was the same hypnotizing wonder I felt as a kid sitting on a train station bench watching the world go by, in simple appreciation of the strange, beautifully efficient spectacle, not quite understanding, but endlessly fascinated. I found in Factorio something I didn’t realize I had lost in myself. It’s why to this day, when the pressures of life grow overbearing and I find myself desperate for a time it all made sense, I close my eyes and think of what I built in my mechanical oasis.

By Matan Morse

I’m a writer and Computer Science student from the southeast U.S. I love writing analytical pieces about the emotional and cultural impact games have on us. Find me @GooseWithAPen to share your thoughts (or funny pictures of geese.)

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