When the concept of zen was first introduced to Buddhist philosophy around the 1st century CE, the overall goal was to encourage people to practice meditations and focus on stillness of mind. So if an agrarian, pre-industrial society was in need of stillness, what does that say about our current state of perpetual burnout? From Capitol riots to pandemic stress to r/publicfreakouts, it's clear we could all use a little more zen. Thankfully, there’s a video game perfectly suited to making you chill the eff out.
Wilmot’s Warehouse from Finji is, at first blush, not much to look at.
It’s a basic black and white room filled with small colored icons and players, represented by simple blocks, scurry around organizing said icons. But, much like a perfectly tended zen garden (or Transformer), there’s more than meets the eye.
The genius behind Wilmot’s Warehouse is that it appeals to something deep within every single one of us: the need to organize.
Even if you’re not “organized” in your daily life, you have a system that you follow with a religious zeal you may be totally unaware of. Maybe you put your freshly washed and folded laundry away immediately. Maybe you have a pile of semi-dirty shirts worn for a few hours at a time. Maybe you towel yourself off after every shower with identical precision every single time. As long as these rituals work for you, they deliver a zenlike peace of mind. Wilmot’s Warehouse is all about tapping into the psychological satisfaction around how we make decisions about what goes where and the way we organize our lives.
The gameplay, much like the aesthetics, is rudimentary. It's divided into two phases. The first phase is organizing. A shipment of objects arrives at your warehouse that must be sorted and stored. What kind of objects? In total, there are more than 200 objects in the game ranging from fruits and vegetables to microscopes to obtuse shapes.
There is a level of abstraction in the design that allows for creative interpretation. Is that a wizard’s hat or Christmas tree? The letter “L” or a yellow rainboot? A big part of the fun comes from deciding what things are and how they are related. This makes sorting everything increasingly complex, as deliveries get larger and more varied over time. The more space you fill up with stuff, the harder it gets to move around.
This brings us to phase two.
The second phase is focused on filling orders for customers. They show up at a service window at the top of your screen and request a random smattering of items that you must fill within the allotted time. If you’re efficient, you earn stars that can be spent on basic upgrades like moving faster or carrying more. Your efficiency depends as much on how you organize as where you organize. Since the objects take up space you have to move around them. Haphazard clusters or narrow pathways make it hard or even impossible to carry an order from A to B.
So where’s the zen in all this? Because the game takes a minimalist approach (and has one of the best ambient soundtracks around) you’re not overstimulated by any of the razzle-dazzle found in other puzzle-y games. There are no brilliant explosions or cartoon jackasses dancing in the corner. It’s serene and focused. You start small, move one thing here and another there, and before you know it an hour has passed. An hour spent NOT thinking about work or society or climate change or that weird thing on your body you should get checked out but don’t want to. Just pure dissociative bliss, the best panacea gaming has to offer.
Wilmot’s Warehouse has a co-op mode too, making it a great couch play on cozy nights at home. Game Pass subscribers should jump on it ASAP as it leaves the service on Dec. 15, but everyone would benefit from a little warehouse wandering this holiday season. It’s available on PlayStation, Switch, PC, and mobile, too.
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