Empty. is a very simple game.
In developer Dustyroom’s Empty. the player is presented with a room. That room has objects inside of it. You make those objects go away.
Each level of Empty. is a different room, the walls painted different colors, and each space is full of multi-colored objects. You spin the room in different directions and through changing the line of sight, match colored objects to their corresponding background. Empty. layers on a few other sets of mechanics which make each scenario increasingly more difficult. It’s a neat little puzzle game, but its mechanics aren’t what drive me to keep playing.
Empty. embraces the sensation of removal.
By de-cluttering a space you make something more pure and simple. The act of making a lamp simply vanish in to thin air scratches an itch that is core to my human experience. I don’t want anymore material objects in my life.
Perhaps it’s a symptom of living in a small apartment in the middle of Chicago, but the idea of having more “things” is unappealing at best. But I think there is more to unpack there. All of my peers in their late twenties and early thirties grew up in the wake of 90’s consumerism. We’ve watched a generation of people really care about what car they drive and what brand of polo they’re wearing. If I ask any of my friends, I don’t think any of them would tell me that they have a great drive to buy more objects.
We also grew up during the birth of the internet. A lust for objects has been replaced with a lust for more information, content, and ideas. This is a broad generalization, but we value what a person says, does, and thinks, more than what they own. I don’t want this to sound too altruistic though, as that obsession with information has its own dark side.
Playing Empty. isn’t just zen-like because of its music or aesthetic presentation (both of which are sublime) but because of the sensation of removal and making void. In some ways it’s a great game to be playing in the socio-political garbage fire that is 2017 so far. When I’m feeling stressed out about the increasingly terrible things going on, it feels great to just make things go away.