Unpacking the ordinary life of pride


It’s been a while since Unpacking was first released by independent developer Witch Beam, but the surprisingly simple yet elegant story of a man who has gone through childhood, higher education and all the way to family life is still the best aspect of the game and the reason. he collects a lot of awards. Of all the indie games released in 2021, Unpacking continued to dominate the gaming scene throughout 2022, receiving more nominations and awards, which is testament to its success, receiving recognition and awards from organizations such as D.I.C.E., BAFTA and Gayming Magazine.

Although “Unboxing” has been nominated and awarded across the board, from game design to sound, it has been widely recognized for its storytelling. At first glance, the story seems simple, but thanks to the clever narrative about the environment that Unpacking uses, players are invited to explore the life of this person and come to their own realizations. Deep meanings are revealed in the simple and mundane, and perhaps this was Unpacking’s secret weapon and a great game to celebrate Pride this year.

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Unpacking the story

Unpacking in general is not such a long game. Consisting of only 8 stages, its “length” depends more on the time spent on each stage, the further the player moves into the game, since gradually he has more items to unpack and complex spaces to navigate in order to place everything correctly. This is a brilliant reflection of life in general, because the older a person gets, the more property he accumulates, eventually conflicting with his partners when living together. Some players were fixated on the length of Unpacking, but many argue that the meaning of the game is not so much in “winning” by traditional gaming standards, as in the catharsis of everyday life, slow understanding of someone else’s life book by book, shirt by shirt, and photo by photo.

The basic premise of “Unpacking” is to follow the life of a person who makes his way from early childhood to his family home with his partner. This is an ingenious approach to game design, because, of course, the younger a person is, the less likely he will have something that can be unpacked with only one bedroom, and the older a person is, the larger the space in which he lives, with even more items. unpack, from clothes to furniture. Each stage brings something new to the table, for example, moving with a new partner or returning home after a breakup, and all this is masterfully told through storytelling about the environment, whether it’s a framed diploma that is stuffed under the bed, and not proudly displayed on display. make sure that the photo is hidden, make sure that when it is out of sight, it is not in memory.

Normalization of queer relations

In the second half of Unpacking, the player may begin to notice signs that the person he was unpacking things for may actually be bisexual or pansexual, from a failed relationship with a guy in the game to thin rainbow clothing that suggests there may be something else. to the character than first thought. At the penultimate stage of the game, the player unpacks other people’s things for the first time, and without ceremony and spectacle, it is easy to guess that these are the things of another woman who is related to the main character, since they share the master bedroom. Moreover, at the last stage, when this couple moves into their family home, it is confirmed that they now have a child and they are planning the rest of their family life with the child in tow.

A few years ago, it might have made people talk. The main character, with no apologies and a queer code, whose sexuality is not the main focus of their personality, was once a rarity that could be seen in video games. While titles like Life is Strange or Tell Me Why make gender identity and sexuality important parts of their stories, it’s vital that games like Unpacking occupy a middle ground between everything else, just to present a perfectly ordinary and typical life experience.

The Pride of unpacking

In fact, this is what makes Unpacking such a memorable and worthy of recognition game. This is not a high-octane action adventure that offers the player an extensive epic story in a vast open world, nor is it an indie game designed to change the game scene. This is a game based on a very ordinary action, about a very ordinary life and promising nothing but telling a very ordinary story, and that made the game important. Queer characters and relationships should be ordinary, and it should be noted that games like Unpacking try to present such lives as ordinary. The more games are similar to Unpacking, the more developers share the values and views of the studio, and the more players support similar games, then the industry can begin to follow their example.

Representation is important in all media formats, and video games have always tried to keep up with changing times, but with mixed results, whether it’s the possible canon of Birdo’s trans identity, the problematic Mr. Gold and Mr. Silver from the Hand of God, or the delightful The Last of Us. Queer players via Ellie. That’s why recognizing the contributions of queer game designers and their games is as worthy of an annual contribution to Pride as anything else that happens in pop culture. With the advent of more games like Unpacking helping to normalize and present queer character stories with families and partners, this can only be a net positive for everyone. Perhaps Witch Beam can release a sequel to its award-winning game, which will help to further normalize and demonstrate the life of a child growing up with queer parents, and how ordinary their life will be.

Unboxing is already available for Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, PS5 and Xbox One.