Observation is an adventure game. The player takes the role of Sam, short for the Systems Administration & Maintenance (SAM) artificial intelligence software aboard a multi-national space station that serves to monitor the entire station. Initially, the player’s view is limited to where the crew have relocated Sam, but as the game progresses, Sam can move its core presence between several of the modules on the station and manipulate cameras and other electronically-controlled equipment in that module. Further on, Sam is provided one of several small spherical probes that allows Sam to move more freely through the station and into hostile environments harmful to the humans aboard, including outside of the station.
The player, by manipulating Sam, can control various elements of the station, such as opening or closing hatches, activating safety systems and the like. Sam may be instructed by the crew to perform specific tasks, and Sam can reply by finding the task element of interest (such as the status of a station module) and report back to the crew.