Night of the Consumers depicts the horrors of retail

I got a job making money for the man

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Society has a habit of treating the most important laborers in the worst ways. Retail workers have it tough since, unlike a profession like utility worker, it’s an unskilled job and difficult to unionize. They’re treated as disposable. It’s not a “career.” You don’t need an education for it. So if you fall to the bottom of society, you’re lucky to wind up there. Customers rarely appreciate your work, but you need to fill the role of laborer, marketer, and janitor. Some don’t mind the work, and others might even enjoy it, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be respected like everyone else.

I spent parts of my life working in retail. Germfood’s Night of the Consumers essentially sums the experience up. It’s not strictly horror in the literal sense, but it certainly feels that way. There are no monsters, but the consumers will pursue you to savage you with their petty needs. Am I getting this anxiety from playing the game, or is it latent trauma?

Night of the Consumers Fired
Screenshot by Destructoid

Plan-o-gram

It’s your first day on the job, and it’s off to a great start as your predecessor has quit in terror. The shelves must be stocked before the end of the day, or the manager will be disappointed. He’s got a reputation to uphold. You don’t want him to look bad, would you? We’ve got to beat the other location on the opposite end of town. Otherwise, corporate might not send us a certificate by email.

Boxes litter the shop floor. You need to take them to the correct department and empty them onto shelves. Stocking is done through a tactile drag-and-drop system. It’s important to the tension of the game, as while you’re flinging stock onto shelves, consumers roam around. If they catch sight of you, they’ll give chase, and if you’re caught, they’re going to force you to take them to new pants.

It’s horrible. If you hear the sound cues signifying pursuit, your only hope of mistake is ducking into a staff room. Ah, yes, I remember that old tactic.

Night of the Consumers Person
Screenshot by Destructoid

Time enough to lean

When a customer catches you, you need to lead them to the correct aisle for what they’re looking for. Night of the Consumers is actually a rather tricky game, and success depends on how well you can learn the store. Signs hang to tell you what each of the aisles is, but finding them while under the pressure of an impatient customer means you won’t have much time to wander.

If you fail to lead the customer to what they desire, you’ll be fired. Good help is hard to find, but you’re disposable.

You’re only successful if you can get all the shelves stocked and the boxes unloaded before time runs out. That’s way easier said than done, especially since you’re constantly interrupted by needy consumers.

Dog food for cats
Screenshot by Destructoid

Retail therapy

Night of the Consumers is a short, small experience, but it’s strangely enjoyable. You’re constantly active, and it makes good use of audio and visual cues to let you know when the consumers are around. It also features an unsettling lo-fi art style that packs in a lot of appreciable small details, such as the subliminal messaging on the labels.

Work still continues to be done on Night of the Consumers, but the experience, as it is now, is largely whole and rather polished. Considering it’s just $1.93 right now, what’s already there is well worth the price.

Night of the Consumers is a rather striking product. Carrying a message, some experimental gameplay, and a sense of humor, it’s a capable example of what makes the indie market such a worthwhile place in video games. As someone who escaped retail (for now), I can’t help but feel uncomfortable playing it. But then, I always appreciate a game that makes me feel something other than merely entertained.


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Author
Zoey Handley
Staff Writer - Zoey is a gaming gadabout. She got her start blogging with the community in 2018 and hit the front page soon after. Normally found exploring indie experiments and retro libraries, she does her best to remain chronically uncool.