Unpacking is, for the most part, a laid-back puzzle game. I’ve had a cosy ol’ time taking out all the protagonist's items one by one and placing them in the various places around her rooms. From her childhood bedroom right up until her first house, I love how relaxing and gratifying it is to decorate each room. But after replaying it for this month's RPS Game Club, there’s one section that gave me quite the opposite reaction.
A big part of Unpacking is learning about the character’s personalities through their objects: what clothes they have in their wardrobes, what items fill their bookshelves, which kitchen utensils make it from move to move, and so on. These contextual clues act as a subtle but incredibly effective story-telling device. There is one level, however, where it’s not all laid-back fun times and it's when the protagonist moves in with her first partner, who I will henceforth be referring to as ‘finance bro boyfriend’ - and wow, he is the absolute worst. Spoilers ahead for those who have not played Unpacking.
After a quick glance around finance bro boyfriend’s apartment, you can instantly tell this dude is not right for our protagonist. The grey-black modern décor, the Japanese miniature zen garden, the living room dumbbells, the pretentious copper kitchenware, the giant speakers, the electric guitar hanging on the wall - it all screams bachelor pad.
That's not necessarily a bad thing, of course. Each to their own, you know? But here’s the kicker. There’s been no attempt to make room for the stuff you need to unpack. Like, no space at all. He’s cleared out a bedside table for you, left a grand total of three hangers empty, and two small drawers, but that’s it. Not exactly the warmest welcome, is it?
So, to make room for your stuff you need to move his stuff around which feels so awkward and wrong. It almost feels like you’re invading someone’s personal space without their permission, even though you now both live together. And the weird meticulousness of his stuff just makes it a thousand times worse.
Also, your stuff and his stuff don't go together even a little bit. Our colourful array of belongings just immediately clashes with the environment, a smart hint that maybe this isn't the right decision for her. I just wanna reach through the scream and yell, “He’s not right for you babes!” Honestly, I felt so sad when I had to place my plush childhood toy Mr. Pig on the bland, grey bed.
It’s his unwillingness to make room for her that boils my blood. And as the final straw - and most heartbreaking moment in the game - he won’t even make space so that she can put up her diploma, so under the bed it goes. Absolutely fuck this dude.
I feel like developers Witch Beam nailed this level. As much as I seethe with rage at the boyfriend, it's genius storytelling. I’m just happy that she ends it with that jerk and moves on with her life. Good for her.