I Think Playing Lake Kickstarted My Mid-Life Crisis

I Think Playing Lake Kickstarted My Mid-Life Crisis

Over the weekend, I played and finished Lake by Dutch developer Gamious.

Lake is set in the fictional town of Providence Oaks, Oregon in 1986. It’s a game about a woman named Meredith Weiss, who takes a well-earned break from her high flying career as a computer programmer. Her boss is a leech, happy to wear her out if it means getting their nascent app out the door. Returning to her hometown presented Meredith with a unique opportunity — get away from the city and her job, and reconnect with the people she grew up around. With her parents heading to Florida on holiday around the same time, Meredith winds up not only housesitting in the family home but also chipping on her father’s usual mail route.

This forms Lake‘s entire arc. You are Providence Oaks’ new postie, delivering letters and packages all over town. It’s not a large community by any stretch, but the area it covers is significant. Providence Oaks is built around the outskirts of a massive lake. The lake is surrounded by craggy mountains and deep forests full of towering oaks and redwoods. As you learn the route day by day, you get to know the town’s inhabitants. Some, like Robert the lumberjack and Angie the video store owner, are lovely. Others, like the town’s crazy cat lady, are much harder to deal with. You start to build a picture of life in this tiny town, where everyone moves at a glacial pace, unbothered by the day-to-day minutia of corporate and city life.

Image: Giphy

I was driving along a stretch of road along the back of the lake, near the camping grounds, when the thoughts began.

“I love this. Like actually love this. I wish I lived here.”

The next in-game day sent me on a similar route and as I passed through a second lined with tall oaks, the thoughts returned. “Throw it all away. The city sucks. We could live in a lovely house in a place nestled in the bush. That tension you’re always feeling, as though you’re constantly braced for a punch? That could just melt away if you moved into the hills.”

Before I knew it, I was tabbing out of the game to look at property prices. They were, uh, still a bit rich for my blood.

Tasmania was pretty cheap, and its unique, beautiful scenery certainly fit the bill. I’d honestly consider it if getting back to the mainland by air weren’t such a roll of the dice.

But still, even Tassie didn’t quite capture the cozy, mountainous nook of Providence Oaks. I forcibly stopped my fantasising and tried to focus on this fictional town’s true appeal. What was it about this fictional town that was prodding at my brain like this?

Despite growing up in Australia, that picture of small-town American life has been fed to me since I was very young. Many of my favourite movies and TV shows from when I was a kid depicted exactly the kind of unhurried, hand-made Americana found in Lake‘s core village. I saw the town from Casper in 1994 and thought “That’s where I want to live.” In the 28 years since, I’ve never stopped wanting to live in that little autumnal slice of Camden, Maine.

Yes, I know Maine is on the opposite side of the US to Oregon and that they have very different geographies. It’s a vibe thing. Let me have this.

Anyway, I wrapped up the game in the evening and decided that would be my sole, definitive, canon playthrough. It’s a great game and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for something low-fi and very chill to play on a lazy Sunday. It’s on Game Pass, give it a go. But I’ve been thinking about that magic little town ever since.

Lake is out now on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and Windows PC. It’s also available on Xbox Game Pass.

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