Whether from a guilt-inducing charity or time share “opportunity,” junk mail sent via snail mail comes across as particularly odious and tone deaf. It feels like someone literally put a postage stamp on trash and sent it your way with nothing more than a message reading, “Hey, could you throw this out for me?” The more elaborate the junk, the more bewildering it feels to receive. Because someone actually put a lot of effort into making sure this carefully constructed garbage made it to you in perfect condition. And the culmination of his or her efforts, along with all the resources it took to get into your hands—all of it goes down the chute. After feeling bad about this enough times, the guilt runs out and instead turns to anger. How can we allow this unnecessary evil go on in society? What kind of monsters choose to go into this line of work? How dare these people force you to take part in their immoral ways—without even asking?
The Ludum Dare game Unsolicited answers all your rage-fueled questions and more. Created in 48 hours by Lucas Pope, the same man who made you sympathize with the monsters manning an immigration border in Papers, Please, Unsolicited offers more bureaucratic grunt work that in actuality serves as a window into the lives of the most hated workers in the world. Through the monotony of gameplay and pressure imposed by a quota, you learn to see the human being behind the garbage that appears in your mailbox everyday.
Unsolicited begins on an altruistic note. Sure, you’re working for a scummy junk mail company. But since you’re sending out charity donation request forms, isn’t it all for the greater good? Then the debt collection notice forms come in, taking away the thin reasoning you might’ve had to justify your actions. You are not the unsung hero of a larger, heroic effort. You are a cog in a soulless corporate machine churning out garbage that you might as well send to a land fill instead for all the good it does.
While Papers, Please put you under the thumb of a communist regime, Unsolicited crushes your soul beneath much more recognizable evils. Capitalist America is the ultimate devil here, demonstrating how different societies pick their poisons. Anyone who’s ever worked for a brand will recognize the bullshit verbiage of a company veiling greed as harmless ambition and moxie. “Continue with a focus on excellence, care, and filing out forms,” reads your progress report upon completing a level. Then, after succeeding in the proceeding level, the report encourages you to instead focus on “filing forms, care, and then excellence.” It’s the kind of mincing of words only an HR department would care wasting their energy correcting. And the company’s assertion that “these are the peaks which ACME was destined to climb” sounds less like moxie and more like a mantra justifying fascism.