Earlier this month, a Netherlands-based maker of video games, Gamious, brought their narrative game to PlayStation consoles. It’s called Lake and takes place during the 80s in the fictitious Oregon town of Providence Oaks. Players take on the role of Meredith Weiss, a 40-something-year-old woman who returns to her hometown to cover her father’s postal delivery route for two weeks.
Players are given a list of addresses to deliver mail to every day except Sunday and are given the freedom to create their own route.
Dylan Nagel is the game director of Lake. He and the other developers weren’t planning on the pandemic to feature in their release when they started developing the game four years ago, but the appeal of inhabiting a different world became undeniable.
“It had to do with escapism,” he said. “We wanted to find a version of life which is universally appealing.”
While the game evolved from a pitch Nagel had for a more arcade-like experience, it was a photo of a car driving along the water that led Nagel to come up with Lake.
Once the team decided on the kind of game they were making, they had to make a choice on where it would be set. A number of ideas were thought of, such as Scandinavia, but ultimately they settled on Oregon because of the team’s love for the 1980s.
“We all grew up with American movies, American sitcoms,” Nagel said. “It was almost a love letter to that era and also those locations.”
While the idea of driving around a car delivering mail was the end product of the game, Nagel said this was something many players weren’t expecting.
“Nobody trusted this concept,” he said. “Collectively we are so well trained or even force-fed drama or external forces that we simply don’t trust idyllic situations anymore.”
The town of Providence Oaks is based on places like Bend, Sisters and Astoria. It’s filled with quaint houses, small businesses and plenty of trees that ring a massive lake.
While games like Alan Wake or Days Gone use Pacific Northwest scenery to create tension and mystery, Lake does the opposite.
Nagel said that while in the beginning, this concept felt new to players, many quickly began to appreciate it, and were relieved that they didn’t have to look over their shoulders.
“It has been, in a sense, healing for a lot of players,” he said.