Making Space

The lack of space in Unpacking.

Unpacking is about making space; be it literal space for your own belongings, or figurative space for another person. As the protagonist moves through stages of her life – her bright childhood home, a lonesome student apartment and several cohabitations with then-partners – she must always find the ‘right’ place for all that she owns. Unpacking leaves a lot of choice in self-expression through decor, but sometimes, the protagonist must accept that some placements are absolute. A burning red highlight flares around items placed incorrectly, leaving the player to figure out through pattern recognition and trial and error where they should instead be placed. Each free space – or lack of – tells a story of her life at the time.

There is no moment within the game that exemplifies this more than in the September 2010 stage: when she moves in with her then-boyfriend. Her colourful, eccentric décor and clothing clashes intensely with his apartment’s drab, monochrome aesthetic, with only a needlessly massive piece of wall art acting as decoration. She’s forced to displace his never-ending gym equipment and kitchen gadgets in order to squeeze in her own belongings, with their haphazard, unorganised positions strongly inferring that he made no effort to make space for her before she moved in.

Eventually, all that’s left is her diploma. Four years of blood, sweat and tears all held within a single piece of signed, framed paper. After hanging it in pride of place above her bed in previous homes, she suddenly finds that there is nowhere it can fit. Nowhere – except, that is, under their bed. Half hidden in the shadows and shoved under there with abandon, it becomes clear to be a microcosm of his position in their relationship – a refusal to make space for her life, her achievements and her dreams.

By Harry Schofield

Harry is a non-binary freelance writer based in the UK. They can usually be found speaking at length about games, film, gender and queer life. Find them on Twitter @HazeHeavenHazza and reach out via

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