If you’re a video game developer that wants to make waves this spring, there’s one easy way to do it: Make a game where you have to organize some sort of inventory while also ignoring The Horrors.
Wait, you might say, that’s just…life? I do that in my closet every day!
A valid response! But consider: Have you ever had the pleasure of finding the best place to put an eldritch fish among your unused fabric, or a chicken egg next to your military-grade rocket launcher?
Exemplars of this format include some of the very best games of the first quarter of the year. There’s the Resident Evil 4 remake, which brings back the original game’s attaché case and its grid-based inventory management. There’s also the hit indie fishing-horror game Dredge, which has you trawling the ocean’s depths for unthinkable aquatic horrors, and finding space for them in your grid-based cargo hold. And then there’s the nightmarish survival game Sons of the Forest, which has you laying out your inventory on a tarp and you hoping that nothing monstrous finds you while rooting around for some breath mints or whatever.
This is my favorite gaming trend right now, coinciding with the celebrated remake of Resident Evil 4, a true trendsetter in this sub-genre. Introducing the spatial reasoning of Tetris as a salve from the stresses of zombie-like parasite villagers, or the cosmic horror of searching for spooky fish, just makes for an infectious and funny gameplay loop: John Carpenter horror followed by Marie Kondo cleaning sprees.
The two things working in concert is where the magic is: I like each individual aspect well enough, but what brings me back is the organization juxtaposed against the nightmare. Maybe this is the secret to a more organized life: Letting a zombie loose in your home so you can finally clean out your closets.