(Content Warning: Parents, Familial Relationships)

Bookstores are a special kind of consumptive hell, their walls insulated with the drab unending detritus of bygone publishing trends. Countless tomes wash up upon the shelves where Graphic Designers trade in their enthusiasm for cynical cash-ins to survive, their work adorning the latest innovations in shallow pop-philosophy, tacky comic books disguised as ‘novels’, and ahistorical biographies that skip over all the messy bits. Yet here you are, still browsing them in an endless mobius strip of indecisiveness, stuck wandering between the trite poetry and the robust offerings of wizard fan fiction, trying to find something compelling for dear old dad.

The Bookshelf Limbo is a very simple story about something we’ve all been through, that indecisive moment of trying to decide between the impenetrable offerings on display. It’s one thing to pick something out for yourself, but when doing it as a symbolic gesture to foster deeper understanding between yourself and a loved one, to relate your umwelten to another person, it’s a proverbial sisyphean task of pushing a book endlessly back onto its shelf. Fathers in particular are known for their stoicism and difficult emotional reads, further compounding the obstacles involved in trying to select the ever elusive perfect gift.

Structured as a straightforward point-and-click title, Bookshelf Limbo is a gauntlet of picking up novella after novella, checking reviews endlessly, and mulling over the comments on the back of the book. “Is this the one?” You second guess yourself yet again- perhaps this isn’t the best way to broach something as complicated as sociopolitical commentary with dad. Suppose you’ll need a more delicate yet genuine signifier to help him understand who you are.

Admittedly, past the gorgeous visuals, Bookshelf Limbo made me briefly reflect on my own relationship with my father, evoking emotions I haven’t thought about in some time. It was a sudden realization that too often we allow our over-thinking to undermine our ability to relate to each other, a moment succinctly summed up in the protagonist’s apprehension when answering the clerk’s question on whether or not to include gift wrapping with a sentimental message.

The Bookshelf Limbo is a nice change in pace from Deconstructeam’s usual work, a gentle reprieve in the face of so much hustle and bustle of daily life, a quiet moment of meditation on ourselves and others as they’re reflected in the opaqueness of crème paper’s ink-blotched depths . Hopefully, the studio will continue to produce more of these delightful one-shot vignettes, and we’ll certainly look forward to poring over every one.

Emily Rose is an indie developer who writes for and resides in the pacific northwest. She’s often seen in the local VR arcade and developer community participating in pushing the medium’s horizons. You can find her on twitter @caravanmalice