Statement or Misstep is the series where we examine pieces of media with plots or messages that could be either considered interesting insights into controversial topics or idiotic attempts at being deep.
Domestic abuse is a problem that silently affects the lives of many people. A serious topic that leaves both physical and mental scars on those who suffer from it. Considered one of the great invisible problems, it has been the hard work of advocates to make the problem known and for those who need help to find it.
So when game developer Colossal Wreck released a game called The Housewife, they attached the idea of making a serious problem visable.
The Housewife is a parable on spouse abuse. The story follows a day in the life of an unnamed housewife and her every desire to please her husband. She lives an illusioned life and has forgotten the world outside her husband, kids and home.
Take on the role of the housewife and make sure the house is maintained, she lives to keep her husband happy. Learn how the world changes for an abused person. She believes that he only beats her when she disappoints him. Get deep inside the functioning psyche of a victim of abuse.
-From the game’s steam description
But to show this message they have you perform a set of difficult to complete cleaning tasks. Like wiping up dirty spots or piles of sand around the weirdly rendered house environment. Failure to clean enough causes the physical abuse of your husband.
Then there are the Housewife’s dreams and fantasies which are presented as being a mixture of escapism but also showing the damage done to her psyche, like having you play a infinite runner or cleaning up fantasy locations in her dreams. The housewife of this game is experiencing things that are surreal and that causes a disconnect from the message the game is trying to present at it’s center.
It makes it hard to stay focused when faced with things like this:
This game is made with assets bought from the Unity store but I don’t think the game’s faults should be blamed on that. It doesn’t need to be beautiful to give a message, but when combined with bizzare side levels, the difficulty being high from the start, and the titular housewife not growing or seeking help or inspiring us to continue her journey alongside her even if it was to negatively end…
This game is a misstep. While I can not make comments about the unique experience that a domestic abuse victim might have, the disconnect I express makes me sure no player will understand because this game doesn’t help. I am not sure if the creators were aiming for some high shock value, tagging on statistics about domestic abuse to not seem disingenuous. Whatever the intent, I cannot say how much this game confuses and upsets.
We will see you next time we figure out if something is a Statement or Misstep.