Time to Take Out the Trash

...by picking it all up and dropping it off in the waste receptacles provided. Sometimes the life of a video game star isn't all excitement and explosions and alienating boob jiggling; occasionally you're required to do something as banal as fetching some guy his newspaper, weeding the garden or, indeed, litter pick-up.

What we have here is a game currently in development that thinks it can make an entire game out of humble janitorial duties, and a nonet of games that have actually made it work. With varying levels of success.

(P.S. I'm not including any playable janitors if they don't actually do any janitorial work and instead run off to save the world. Those guys are dead to me. You heard me Abe of Abe's Oddysee and Roger Wilco of Space Quest!)

List items

  • Visceral Cleanup Duty is the game-in-process I was talking about. Scoops dropped a link to its (currently free) alpha on the 07/19 Worth Reading, but as development continues I'm curious how they plan to turn it into... well, a real game, I suppose. Achievements for 100%-ing an area? Time trials? Competitive clean-up modes? Collecting all those empty bullet cases and crafting fancier mops or commemorative junk art out of them? Could be an interesting process.

  • Of course, perhaps the most notorious example of janitorial gaming is how a beautifully-situated Mario adventure got turned into one long sentence of community service to wash away oil spills and brightly colored paint. It's certainly not a bad game by any metric, but like most of Isle Delfino itself it's been largely tarnished by its dutiful graffiti washing.

  • Dustforce helps you brush up on your dustbusting knowhow, but in such a fast-paced N+ kind of way that the fact that the whole game revolves around sweeping up dust is immaterial. They might as well be collecting coins or rescuing girls made entirely out of medical supplies. Still, it's cool to give the janitors of the world some heroic badass role-models to aspire towards. Should broom acrobatics even be a thing they admire, anyway.

  • Chibi-Robo, friend to all humans and toys, has a day job. That day job is cleaning up after his untidy hosts. Collecting trash, cleaning marks and spills and dusting surfaces all award Chibi with Happy Points and Moolah: the two currencies the game uses for upgrades. It's therefore worth taking the small amount of time to deal with any problem spots you find along the way to whatever it was you were doing. Chances are, it'll result in you being better equipped for the bigger problems up ahead.

  • I don't delve into the weird, crappy games of my beloved Atari ST too often, but Bug Bash was a fairly basic Defender-esque multidirectional shoot 'em up that switched the human slaves for trash you needed to drop off at trash bins to keep a garden clean of pollution. It was oddly playable and I still occasionally get its catchy theme music stuck in my head.

  • WALL-E is just irredeemably bad. Not the movie, obviously, but this licensed game that lives up to the reputation of quickie cash-ins and then some. One of the persistent goals of its little mechanical hero is to collect trash. You can take the Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class out of the trash-filled uninhabitable planet we once called home, but...

  • EcoQuest was one of many games from the 1990s that got a little too overt with its pro-environment message. There's absolutely nothing wrong with being a little more green but I feel like the generation of kids raised on these proselytizing cartoons probably now litter and start tyre fires on principle. As with most Sierra games, points are earned for "correct actions". A lot of these correct actions are finding and disposing of trash you find strewn about the various screens.

  • Awesome Possum is perhaps the point during a very busy period of "mascot platformers with attitude" that appeared after the surprise success of Sonic the Hedgehog where even the hack developers trying to get their piece of the radical rodent pie realized they had gone too far. At least, one hopes. Awesome Possum ramps up Sonic's ecological message of how technology is disrupting the natural beauty of the world, and chose to underline its point about how detrimental trash can be by making every aspect of its controls, sprite collision, speed and graphical quality as garbage as possible. See kids? Might as well put that controller down and go plant a tree.

  • While Pikmin 1's collection quest was a fairly important one of survival, Pikmin 2 is all about earning some mad Pokos. Of course, all of Pikmin 2's "treasures" were anything but to us, yet all the same the game generated a great sense of being excited for every new piece of crap the little Pikmin found. I just hope this new one is as collectible-heavy.

  • Buzz_clik gave me a heads up about this one. It's all right there in the title. The topics they made Commodore 64 games about back in the day, my word.

  • [Thanks Shodan2020!] I can't say I ever played the follow up to MC Kids, but I clearly didn't imagine a big trend of these things around the mid-90s. I'm sure there's even more of which I'm unaware.