Hello, and welcome to our new series which picks out interesting things that we’d love someone to make a game about.
This isn’t a chance for us to pretend we’re game designers, more an opportunity to celebrate the range of subjects games can tackle and the sorts of things that seem filled with glorious gamey promise.
Check out our ‘Someone should make a game about’ archive for all our pieces so far.
There’s a gaming moment my mind often comes back to, from time to time, when I’m feeling particularly wistful. It’s not a boss fight, or a hilarious moment shared with friends. In fact, it’s pretty tame in comparison to these things.
In Yakuza 0, one character treats another to some takoyaki. It’s night time in Kamurocho and they seize a rare opportunity to stroll along its back streets in search of the snack. Bathed in the orange glow of lanterns and lights, and with the quiet murmur of crowds in the distance, he leads her towards a cheery street food vendor who offers them a bite to eat.
As the dish sizzles away and wisps of steam rise into the air, he delicately removes a fallen petal from her hair. Privy to this gesture, the vendor exclaims, “He’s a keeper” with a knowing nod of the head. Masking obvious embarrassment, he quips at her to get on with it. Silence. Then just as you suspect another frustrated swipe, “He is a keeper” cuts through the air.
What follows is a desperately touching scene where she expresses her gratitude not only for the food, but for his help and his unwavering companionship. He remains quiet, and uncharacteristically calm. Around her, you can tell his tension ebbs away. For a wonderful, fleeting moment, you catch a glimpse of his soft and loving side, where beyond his steely gaze sorrow gives way to tenderness.
If I cast my mind back to a particular person, place, or time I’m fond of – or miss dearly – it’s often the totally ordinary things which trigger the strongest response. Sure, the mind’s able to render exciting, frightening or momentous memories with extraordinary clarity, but there’s an unrivalled warmth to the mundane. A little jingle, a bright smile, the waft of freshly brewed coffee. Hands in pockets, synchronised footsteps, misty breath. We are able to take comfort in these inner slideshows, perhaps extending a thought to one particular snapshot as it passes by and taking pleasure in reliving it again.
Terrace House wonderfully captures this rhythm of daily life and I adore it. The premise is simple: it’s a Japanese reality TV show in which six people live together (three men, three women). Romances blossom. Wait! Before I lose you – this is different. There is no public voting. They are not forced to participate in silly games and butt heads with one another. They are free to leave whenever they want, they can carry on with their jobs, and hang out with friends and family. Oh, and there’s a mixture of Japanese comedians, actors and personalities who break up the action by reacting to events you’ve just seen, Gogglebox style.
This is a reality show which diverts expectation. The magnificent intro kicks in a good two or three minutes into each episode. It’s teed up by a little recap, and once the scene is set, swing! You can sense it coming, but it’ll always catch you off guard. And after a catchy number, we truly begin the week’s activities. Most of the time, it opens with someone sitting at the kitchen table, spooning cereal into their mouth. Sometimes another will join them and ask what they’ve got lined up for the day, looking back with the fridge door left ajar. It doesn’t cut away, why would it? This is valuable interaction.
Even the drama can be hilariously ordinary. Without spoiling too much, Season one is home to the infamous ‘Meat Incident’ in which someone’s prize steak is eaten without his permission as all the other housemates wrongfully presume it’s going to be shared with them in the future anyway. What follows are a number of strongly worded conversations and quiet sulks in the bedroom. This is as explosive as it gets. Housemates navigate tension through seminar-like group chats, and calmly delivered one-on-one talks. Eventually the issue is untangled and resolved rather peacefully. It’s fascinating to see the cultural differences in how situations are handled.
Tap dancers, architects, office workers, baseball players, students and more feature. When a new member joins, the top left of the screen delivers a rapid, bibliographic summation of their academic and professional achievements thus far. Depth is valued here, and it begs the question, what will they achieve during their stay? Such a wide variety of backgrounds also leads us into some lovely areas of Japan we’d likely never see otherwise, and it’s a privilege to witness someone share their passion with not only everyone in the house, but us too.
I tune in every night, not for the drama, but because my routine has melded into theirs. I heave my worries onto the floor, escape into another reality for thirty minutes, and relish in every nuance that the mundane brings. Terrace House unashamedly shows you life, raw, not jazzed up or Photoshopped, and trusts you to patiently observe.
You learn of their ambitions and insecurities. You see them grow in confidence, face their flaws, embrace their strengths, attempt to change. Your heart lifts as beer glasses clank, “Cheers!”, you rejoice in seeing them book days off and go camping, you lean closer as they cook together, you are blown away by their professional prowess, you fist pump as someone asks their crush out on a date. Then someone announces they are leaving and it’s genuinely difficult to process, because you’ve lived with them for so long.
Often we try and escape the mundane, but Terrace House celebrates humdrum, elevating monotony into something totally mesmerising. When the credits roll, you feel more obliged to cherish the ordinary, as this is what stays with us and defines us, even if we don’t realise it at the time.
(If you’ve read this far into my ramblings and would like to give the show a go, start with Terrace House: Boys and Girls in the City. You’ll find it all on Netflix.)