You can't save the galaxy in a day

Oliver Oliver • Published 8 months ago


Major Spoiler Warning

This post contains information about the story or gameplay of Outer Wilds, which may include details about the end game, which will almost certainly spoil the experience if you have yet to play.

For this reason, I strongly urge you consider playing for yourself before you continue.

Dear friend

I have a hero complex. I do, I will admit it. I have the overbearing tendency to try to fix everything wrong in the lives of those I care about, as if it's somehow my responsibility to do so; when I inevitably face the fact that I shouldn't - or worse can't - do anything about it, I feel like I've done more bad than good. Like I have personally failed them.

Does that mean there's something wrong with me? I don't think it's entirely unreasonable to want to help others. Perhaps, though, it should come as no surprise that I frequently feel my worth as a person diminished, when the only way I feel I can gain such worth is by righting wrongs that are not mine to right.

A while ago I watched a YouTube video by Razbuten titled “You Can't Save The Galaxy In A Day”, where he talks about Outer Wilds and the fantastic and mysterious time loop within it. Because no one goes into Outer Wilds knowing what to expect or knowing how to beat the game. But after that first loop, and you realise the sun is going supernova, you instantly latch on to the goal of “you must stop the sun from exploding.” You must save everyone. There must be some secret, hidden somewhere in this cosmic ballet of deathly worlds, that will stop this horrible wrong from killing you and your friends. That's what I thought at first, too.

But Razbuten goes a bit deeper. He identifies something human about the mechanic. He identifies that through all the times the Outer Wilds time loop has you start over, you are making progress. You are constantly standing on the shoulders of giants with all the knowledge of your alternate selves, and that eventually if you just stick with it, it will be worth it. You can't save the galaxy in a day, but keep at it.

And so it, he says, applies also to life. Because while you're going about your life facing whatever demons you happen to be facing, you have to remember that you can't fix all your problems overnight. You can't flip a switch and expect to have that job you want, the girl you want, the house you want, or even that mental stability. You just can't, it doesn't work that way. But it's important to remember that whatever battles you're facing, no matter how many times you are knocked down, you are always making progress. You are building on the knowledge, wisdom, and experience, of your past self. Maybe you will get that job, maybe you'll get the girl, maybe you'll get the house, maybe you will be mentally well, but you can't do it overnight - you have to work at it. You can't save the galaxy in a day, but keep at it.

For a while, I agreed with this view. He's totally right, of course - it's only by working and striving towards something better, that we can even hope to see results. That was until I actually finished Outer Wilds and reached the endgame. We're now entering spoiler territory, so be forewarned.

Once you near the endgame, you start to realise that the sun isn't going supernova because of any technology or nefarious purposes. There is no final boss, there is no evil villain to fight. The sun has simply reached the end of its natural lifecycle. There is nothing you can do to stop it, it's simply time to let it die. When you reach the end and realise that what you were working towards solved nothing, it stings ever so harshly. You realise that you can't save your friends, you can't prevent the sun dying, you can't fix this. It's time to say goodbye, sitting with your friends, roasting marshmallows around the iconic campfire as you recount the memories you've made.

And this is why Outer Wilds means so much to me. Because while Razbuten identifies with the fact that you can't fix all your problems instantly, I identify that it isn't always my job to fix literally everything. It's not always within my power to magically heal everyone, to instantly solve everyone else's problems. It's not my job, nor do I have any right to make it my job. Sometimes I just can't do anything.

You can't save the galaxy in a day? Maybe you can't. But maybe, just maybe, you were never meant to save it at all.