Cleaning is miraculous. It is the ultimate de-stressor for me. I have no patience for an unmade bed or dishes left in the sink. I pride myself on my cable management, I love making to-do lists, and nothing makes me more excited than an itinerary. Perhaps it’s why I love inventory management and city sims! But even I can fall behind on my organisational prowess. I have so many ambitions left unfulfilled, so much productivity made illusory with every pomodoro timer and budget tracker app I download but never use.
I don’t want to pretend that cleaning is somehow easy, or made easier when it’s gameified. If you find the fun, then snap, the job’s — still a job. So I went looking for games that didn’t simulate cleaning as much as I saw in them a theme of keeping things in order. Or maybe a bit of commentary on what is out of order.
Here are several games about cleaning to help keep your New Year’s Resolutions on track.
I think Turnfollow are making some of the greatest independent games today. A two-person games group based out of Chicago and Los Angeles, the combined efforts of Carter Lodwick and Ian Endsley. They have a penchant for soft colours, soft music, and poignant slice-of-life vignettes. Packing Up the Rest of Your Stuff on the Last Day at Your Old Apartment (PUTROYSOTLDAYOA for short) is fairly self-explanatory, but they expand a bit on it in the game’s description: “It’s a hot, hot August 31st in Chicago. You’ve got both fans going on you. The bare mattress feels so cool on your back… A train rumbles by. At least you won’t have to do this again for another year. And it will be fall soon. The playlist on your Ogg Player repeats.”
I played this game in the height of summer, when I was moving out of my London flat and getting ready to move across an ocean and across a continent. It was so hot that summer, putting things in boxes or just throwing things away because I didn’t want to think about them anymore. I have done a lot of moving in my life, and I always find it striking how the putting things in boxes always manages to feel the same.
Hey, how’s your folder-management? Do you have any consistency in there? People who can maintain a solid file naming system are the real heroes. Here we’re given a little insight into how to give file names and nesting folders a little poetic panache. Foldscape is a game from Porpentine (who previoulsy used to write this very column!) which takes place across several different document folders. It’s wildly clever as a platform (engine???), and spins a deleriously bizarre world through its numerous text files and folders. To try and describe any Porpentine game does them little justice — they’re funny, biting, and offer a raw in-your-face vulnerability that I struggle to find in any other games. Settle for nothing less than Porp-worthy poeticism in 2019.
Maybe you are like me, in that you save a lot of the images you encounter Online. I have been Online for nearly twenty years now, and regrettably I do not think that is going to change any time soon. When I was a teenager, I saved almost every image I came across that “resonated” with me in that especially teenager sort of way. I’ve managed to keep a lot of those pictures on an external harddrive, and when I look back at them (which I do really only when I’m engaged in a twice-yearly above-mentioned folder management) I get a real dose of retroactive embarrassment. Really, teen-me? You saved an image of typewritten e.e. cummings poetry? A funny meme? Several blurry photos that a website somewhere claimed were “spirit orbs”? Well FINE.
Game designer ‘flan’ looked bare-faced into all the terror such images say about a person and said, “Yeah, I can make a game about that.” The Museum of the Saved image is a personal dive into the recesses of one person’s computer over the course of several months. There’s no overarching plot you’re trying to uncover found-footage style, there’s no “piecing together the mystery” from the “environmental narrative”. It’s just a collection of pictures from someone’s desktop. Hang out a while.
Morning routines are important. I keep telling myself that I’ll become the sort of person who wakes up at six in the morning to drink green tea and do yoga and write down my intentions for the day in a dream journal. Invariably, I spend each morning tucked under the duvet scrolling through Twitter for an hour before I realise that I’m running late for a morning class and reheat some of yesterday’s leftover coffee. I am trying to get better at this.
Morning Coffee comes from Animal Phase, Audrey Moon and Jocelyn Reyes, and is a very simple coffee-drinking morning routine. There’s a dash of existentialism, a bit of rain, and some morning fog to get through, but ultimately the day begins.
Sometimes it’s just good to do crimes with a dash of melancholy.