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'Unpacking' Zen: Designing a Game Without Fail States or Scores

Wren Brier  (Creative Director, Witch Beam)

Location: Room 2005, West Hall

Date: Wednesday, March 22

Time: 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Core Pass

Topic: Design

Format: Lecture

Vault Recording: Video

Audience Level: All

A zen game about taking items out of boxes after a move might sound extremely niche, but Unpacking by Witch Beam Games has gone on to achieve critical and commercial success, selling over a million copies and winning over 20 awards around the world—including a BAFTA for its narrative and a GDCA for innovation.

The game lacks many conventional game design components: There are no scores, no time limits, no fail states, no consequences to choices, and no dialogue. Not only did Unpacking not need these elements, it is a better game for omitting them. What's left when all of these things are taken away? And why design a game like this?

This talk will explore the rationale for Unpacking's design and the way it was implemented in practice.


Attendees will learn how practical game pillars and subtractive design can strengthen the core of a game.

Intended Audience

This is for game designers looking to try a new approach, and anyone intrigued by Unpacking.