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2021 in review: The most moving game of the year was about moving

Think outside the box.

Hello! Over the next few days we're going to be going back over some of our favourite games and moments and themes and whatnot from this very strange year. We hope you enjoy looking back with us!

This Christmas I'm going back to the house where I grew up. It's been more than 15 years since I moved out, and so it is now very definitely my parents' house and not my own - but part of me will always think of it as home.

No one enjoys moving house, but I've wondered whether having that childhood address for so long is part of why I hate the idea of moving so much. Moving is a huge disruption. It means putting life and work and money on hold. It means setting up the internet again.

But packing up and then unpacking somewhere new is a fact of life, and something we all have to put up with as circumstances change. Work or schools change, jobs change, families change. These changes are so often coupled with a new address. Sometimes, the only thing you can control is what you take with you.

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I remember my first move, to uni, with just a car-load of old possessions plus a new set of crockery from Morrisons. I didn't spend long choosing what to take - it was more about the sense of freedom for what I could leave behind, a need to shed many of the childhood belongings I still retained.

Seeing those memories replicated so simply and beautifully in Unpacking, as its protagonist moves through their life, made it my personal game experience of the year. It has its own, subtle story to tell - and does so brilliantly through gameplay - but it's the stories it chimes with that really make it stick.

Unpacking is as simple as games come - taking possessions out of cardboard boxes and finding them a fresh home. But as Malindy wrote so perfectly in Eurogamer's Unpacking review, it's also the story of the items people take along with them, and the life changes which prompt those decisions, which drive your curiosity forward.

How much can you learn from a person by their university room? It's a time of life defined by hastily-bought posters Blu-tacked over walls. What about when you have to share spaces with others? Strangers? Lovers? What about when you have to take a step back?

Unpacking's genius is its simplicity - without anything more complicated to do, it's impossible not to ruminate on how the game doles out items and prescribes the limits on where they can be placed.

It is sometimes hilarious, and sometimes heartbreaking. Treasured possessions are lost and refound, hobbies grow and wane. There are various outside influences. There's another sock - and another toy chicken?! Ultimately, Unpacking is a game about the lives we lead via the rooms and houses we live in, filled with possessions which possess so much of us too.

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