Unpacking is in These Lists
In addition to the similar games listed above, which have been linked to this game specifically in the database, you may find games with a similar theme to Unpacking in the following lists:
We spend our lives in buildings every day. Our homes, offices, shopping malls, cathedrals, stations, bridges and even public toilets have all been designed. Video games mirror and magnify this built environment in different ways.
Some, like Assassin's Creed
, Grand Theft Auto
and Forza Horizon
recreate virtual versions of familiar places. Others, like The Witcher
, Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess
, create their own cities and buildings. Then there are games like The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild
or The Last Of Us
that drop you in a once-great but now ruined architecture.
Along with these pre-built spaces, there are also games that invite you to affect and rebuilt the architecture of a world. Games like Townscaper
allow you to easily create series of buildings and consider how one structure relates to those around it -- like a street-scene generator. Then there are games like Animal Crossing
, that offer a social context in which to apply your architectural and landscaping skills.
Then there are games that build spaces that would be impossible in real life. From the Escher-like Manifold Garden
to the scale-confounding Superliminal
, these games can play with perspective and movement to not only confuse the player but open new possibilities in perceiving buildings.
Finally, there are games with breathtaking architecture. Whether it's the atmospheric lighting of Control
, the climbable buildings of the Uncharted
series or Shadow of the Colossus
vast cathedral-like structures, video games often create original spaces that stop you in your tracks.
The video games in this list create space to notice, reflect and try your hand at architecture. They are fun, but they are also important because the design of the spaces we spend time in have profound effects on how we feel, think and move.
While many games include characters to interact with, some are specifically designed to make relationships a central element. Whether this is during the rounds of a puzzle game amidst a zombie outbreak or as we race cars around a circuit, they can offer a unique way to think deeply about how we relate to each other and to the games people play.
In contrast to films or books, characters and relationships in video games need to be discovered by the player. Some of my favourite relational moments in games happen amidst other action. Often these other actions – whether shooting, puzzle-solving, or fetching and carrying – serve to underline the difficult, awkward and snatched nature of interpersonal interactions.
We are used to books, films and radio programs challenging our assumptions on subjects. Adam Curtis, Louis Theroux and David Attenborough have powerfully used film to change perspectives and values.
Less well known is how many video games tread a similar furrow. These are games that not only tackle difficult subjects, but get beneath the usual binary perspectives to create new ways of thinking about these themes.
These games offer ways to consciously step outside the day's stresses and pressures to create space for self-care. This may be to distract yourself with calming unpressured tasks or to visit a world that is tranquil and relaxing or maybe just spend time reflecting on your emotions in a safe space.
The Digital Futures Commission's A Vision of Free Play in a Digital World report
that outlines the key qualities of "free play" for what "good" looks like in a digital world. The team from 5 Rights Foundation and Digital Futures LSE set out ambitious expectations for children’s free play in all contexts. To claim the label ‘Playful by Design’, digital products and services should adopt seven principles:
Be Welcoming: Prioritise digital features that are inclusive, sociable and welcoming to all, reducing hateful communication and forms of exclusion and reflecting multiple identities.
Enhance Imagination: Prioritise creative resources and imaginative, open ended play over pre-determined pathways built on popularity metrics or driven by advertising or other commercial pressures.
Enable Open-Ended Play: Provide and enhance features that offer easy-to use pathways, flexibility and variety as these support children’s agency and encourage their imaginative, stimulating and open-ended play.
No commercial exploitation: Reduce compulsive features designed to prolong user engagement or cultivate dependency on games, apps or platforms, so children’s immersive play is intrinsically motivated and freely chosen.
Ensure safety: Ensure children’s play in online spaces is safe, including by giving them control over who can contact them and supplying help when needed.
Allow for experimentation: Recognise that exploration, invention and a degree of risk taking is important in children’s play and that the burden should not fall on them always to be cautious or anxious, or to follow rules set by others.
Be age-appropriate: Respect the needs of children of different ages by providing age-appropriate opportunities for play, while also allowing for safe intergenerational play.
I asked Sonia Livingstone, lead researcher and report author, whether there were many games that already met this criteria. "Children bring a lot to their play that for them is imaginative and sociable. Where it's more difficult is in the voluntary and intrinsically motivated play. Games very rarely leave children to play at their own pace and rate. The freedom for risk taking is sometimes present but here, children themselves take on the safety burden from society at large and limit play themselves."
Inspired and challenged by the report, we searched our database to identify games that came closest to meeting these high standards. Like the report, this aims to concentrate energy on identifying opportunities for free play that should be enriched and expanded to make play online more child-centred.
In the report, children identify their need to play in ways that perhaps adults don’t understand or that some digital designs deny. They don't want a completely "whole-food experience", nor to turn back the clock to an offline world. They want digital products designed to enhance the qualities of play and at the same time want those aspects of design that are exploitative or invasive to be dialled down.
Examples on this list include playful offline video games. Games like Lonely Mountains Downhill
and Microsoft Flight Simulator
offer open-ended play where you can go where you want and make your own fun. Spelunky 2
, Mini Metro
enable free-play that is intrinsically and experimentally motivated without commercial exploitation. Then games like A Short Hike
and Wilmot's Warehouse
offer play that is welcoming for newcomers and specifically age appropriate. Risk taking and rule breaking play that doesn't become a burden on the child is found in games like Untitled Goose Game
and The Longing
Examples on this list also include playful online video games. Games like Journey
and One Hour One Life
offer a welcoming experience by encouraging (in some cases requiring) other players to help newcomers. Phantom Abyss
offers an unusual competitive play space that celebrates experimentation and is safe by design through minimal communication. Sea of Thieves
offer age appropriate play for older teenagers that is built around experimentation and discovery through risk taking that is lead by imagination. Stormworks
combines open ended play like Minecraft
, but offers a context more age appropriate to ambitious teenagers through its float-mechanics and boat design. Sky Children of the Light
combines many of the criteria, offering a welcoming experience for newcomers, imaginative play. It subverts the commercial feel of other app games by focusing purchases on items that are primarily to give away to other players.
In a culture that holds up youth as an ideal rather than a stage of life, it can be hard to embrace our ageing lives, bodies and dreams. The games in this list offer a chance to step into the shoes of older protagonists as well as spend time with people coming to terms with the ticking clock themselves.
Eggplant: The Secret Lives of Games
, is a podcast that offers a candid conversation with game creators that dives deep into the art, craft, and process of making games. It's an amazing insight into the mind of people who understand and highlight how game/play mechanics can do unexpected, magical and surprising things.
This is the list of games they have picked as their Game of the Year 2018-2021. These awards also include board games, escape rooms and game-like TV series. We have included video games here, where we have them on the database. (And in many cases have added video games to the database after listening to the show.)
It's hosted by:
Nick Suttner, an independent game writer/designer/consultant, who has worked on games like Celeste, Bloodroots, and Carto.
Andy Nealen, a game creator and scholar, artist and music maker, architect and structural engineer, and professor of cinematic arts and computer science at USC.
Sarah Elmaleh, actor, consultant and event organizer with a passion for collaborative creation - both as a seasoned performer and as an advocate for best practices in the games industry.
Zach Gage, who makes deep games that are easy to get into, like Really Bad Chess and SpellTower.
Douglas Wilson, who is a co-owner of Die Gute Fabrik, a games studio based in Copenhagen, Denmark. He has worked on Johann Sebastian Joust, Sportsfriends, and Mutazione.
Laura E. Hall, is an an artist, writer, puzzle-maker, immersive environment and narrative designer focusing on the playful intersections of arts, culture, and technology, especially in gaming.
The team is usually joined by Laura E. Hall for the game of the year episodes. She is an artist, writer, puzzle-maker, immersive environment and narrative designer who focuses on the playful intersections of arts, culture, and technology, especially in gaming.
Each year, journalist Simon Parkin picks the top games for New Yorker magazine. Along with a look back on the major events in video games, these offer a window on the games that stood out for innovation, novel interactions as well as perfect execution.
This includes games from the following years: 2021
You can aid the happiness of your brain by taking on activities that generate key experiences and chemicals:
Dopamine for motivation, learning and pleasure.
Oxytocin for trust and building relationships.
Serotonin for significance and importance.
Endorphins for euphoria and elation.
Without serotonin you can feel unstable and find your mood changing rapidly. It's a chemical that helps us with routines where we accept ourselves and find calm. With low serotonin it is hard to feel confident in who we are. This can mean that we worry more and find it harder to learn and remember things.
Along with getting outside for exercise, eating well and nurturing conversations, video games can also help. Games that generate serotonin are those that give to regular simple activities you can complete each day. Games that help build routine are helpful. We may not play these games for long, but they help structure other things around them. Fitness games also complement this, particularly those games that give us a reason to get outside.
is a YouTube channel that aims to aid discovery of really amazing independently made video games. Their approach shuns the common promotion-led cycle of new games, and instead digs deep to fund unusual and compelling games that adults as well as youngers will enjoy playing.
Each year they have selected 10-20 games as their recommended games of the year.
These games go above and beyond just adding a few difficulty settings. They consider a wide range of ability and accessibilities by offering customisable difficulty settings as well as special low pressure or assist modes that aid progress.
Video games are a great way for children to play. However, they are also contested spaces often created with profit as well as play in mind. How do we empower children to play, break the rules and self-determination in light of other pressures and owners of these digital spaces?
We worked with Sara Grimes on this list of games that offer new and emergent ways to provide play possibilities to children. Her book, Digital Playgrounds
explores the key developments, trends, debates, and controversies that have shaped children’s commercial digital play spaces over the past two decades.
The politics of children’s play aren’t something we often talk about. This is more than decrying big business muscling in on childhood. It’s about understanding digital play in a holistic sense so it can be all it needs to be in the life of a child. Sara describes this as an embrace of the complexity of children’s online playgrounds, virtual worlds, and connected games.
It comes down to something at the heart of our database: seeing games more than mere sources of fun and diversion. “Games serve as the sites of complex negotiations of power between children, parents, developers, politicians, and other actors with a stake in determining what, how, and where children’s play unfolds.”
We’re excited about games in this list as they are not only digital spaces where these things meet, but that children use them in ways they weren’t intended. These games can be places where children push back at the powers-that-be and take ownership of these digital public spheres in unexpected ways.
Metaverse rule making and breaking in games like Roblox and Fortnite, where the context offers more than competition. Children often invent their own rules and ways to play not instigated by the developer.
Citizenship their own way in games like Alba, Cozy Grove or Unpacking where children have agency to influence and contribute (or not) to public spaces. Then there's games like and Please Touch The Artwork and Sloppy Forgeries that invite usually discouraged behaviour.
Undirected play can lead to unintended scenarios in games like Pok Pok Playroom, Kids, A Short Hike or Townscaper where play isn’t directed or capitalised upon, but left alone to be an end in its own right.
Purposeless Exploration in games like , Proteus and Ynglet can be used as a way to waste time, not progress and refuse direction.
Misbehave in games like Untitled Goose Game, Donut County, Carrion, Fable, Scribblenauts and Beholder is expected. But how children stretch and reinvent (or refuse to partake in) this usually frowned on behaviour opens unexpected possibilities.
The Let's Game It Out
YouTube channel is a great example of games you can play in ways (very) unexpected by the developers. These aren't all child friendly, but are fascinating examples of play transgressing intended rules.
These are games made by Australian game developers. Some have featured in the Australian Game Developer Awards
, but others we have found by researching Australian developers online with the help of the IGEA
The list includes games originally made in Australia as well as HD versions and re-releases worked on by Australian game development studios.
In this series, we are learning how different aspects of video games work by playing games that offer an easy introduction to this one concept. This is designed for people new to gaming, and aims to identify games with the least barriers. In this entry we are looking at Puzzle games
Puzzle video games are a broad genre, as there is something puzzling, or something to solve in most games. The games we specify here focus on a puzzle or conundrum as the main interactive mechanic. They test many problem-solving skills, logic, pattern recognition, sequence solving, spatial recognition, and word completion.
Some puzzle games will focus on a traditional, self-contained, puzzle board with pieces to move. Other video games take this in more conceptual directions, offering puzzles that involve Action
or even Role-Play
relationships with other characters.
In this way, the puzzle can be used to communicate frustration, difficulty or tension as well as offer a sense of control, understanding and ease in
games. Most Puzzle video games are, by their nature, Turn Based
but they can also be integrated into more pressured and time-limited Action
Games tell stories about people and places. This can be similar to books and films, offering snapshots, flashbacks and poignant scenes that form a life. Because we can explore the spaces where games happen, they can also tell stories by the things we find.
Games often use their character's possessions to tell us about them, as much as what they say or look like. Favourite toys, carefully written letters, hurried notes, pictures on the walls, dilapidated architecture, menus, vehicles, ticket stubs. The objects of our lives tell a story about who we are and what is happening to us.
Games like The Sims
or Animal Crossing
enable us to use possessions to create spaces that reflect the character we are playing. In
, we are given a prized camera and bird book from our grandparents to tell the story of their bond and trust.
Some games let us get to know characters solely through their possessions. In Unpacking
we spend hours placing and arranging someone's things, and as we do we get to know them (and their hopes, loves, losses and travels) deeply. In The Last of Us
we find people's notes and possessions abandoned. In this we find the story of a world in panic, but also of the people's lives before everything went wrong.
Other games use possessions as an important part of how we interact with the world. In Overboard
, for example, we need to use medication, ear rings and clothing to tell a story that the other characters in the world believe (one where we didn't murder our husband).
Finally, games use possessions sentimentally to connect us to the past of characters. In Hindsight
we are asked to decide which objects to keep and which to let go of. In Before I Forget
, possessions offer a gateway to our own fraying memories.
However games use these possessions to tell stories, it's always worth slowing down, noticing the objects we are rushing past and reading the literal and metaphorical notes about the world in which we are playing.