Oxygen not included… and neither is Convenience

Jeffrey McGee
5 min readOct 22, 2021

It’s REALLY hard!

The early 2010s were a period of discovery and novelty for me. When I bought the PS3, the jump in quality and accessibility from the PS2 to the current generation of consoles (relevant to 2010), suddenly a whole world of opportunities could be found on the digital store. Best of all, you don’t even have to get out of the house anymore (although since it was new back then, not a lot of publishers were willing to use digital distribution). There were all kinds of games, from indie to AAA to even PS1 and PS2 games (for those nostalgia vibes), and even accessories to make your UI look fancy. Of course, the passionate days of being a gamer were slowly burning out, but it was fun while it lasted.

I believe it had to be the 2nd game I ever downloaded from the PlayStation Store, a game by the name of Shank. A decent game that, frankly, I enjoyed a lot, but it never became a prominent franchise since it only ever had two entries in its series (the first game and a sequel). It would’ve been cool if it worked, but it was through that game that I was introduced to Klei Entertainment. A developer of indie games that makes their games stand out is the distinct art style, designed to look like a comic book. Although this article is about a different game of theirs, Shank is still my favourite, and I wish there were more to it but whatever.

Oxygen Not Included is definitely one of the more complicated video game experiences I had, not just in recent times but in total. It is both repeatedly frustrating and stubbornly motivating. It has too many features that require every detail never to be left unchecked, making it sound like algebra. But what is it? Well… Oxygen Not Included is a simulation game where you are tasked with helping a group of people called “Duplicants” get off a deserted space rock. I cannot stress how eagerly the game requires you to pay attention to every basic need. I would draw out a scenario that vaguely describes how frustrating this game can get, and I actually did… in the first draft, but it took too much space, and I already told that joke one too many times. But basically, this game is convoluted, with so many texts devoted to the tiniest of details, from the exact wattage the fridge requires to the percentage of bacteria that fill the Duplicants’ nasal cavity. And there are a lot of texts…

Did I come to play or to read?

So it was evident to me from the start that the game wasn’t planning on cutting me any slack, but nothing prepared me for the amount of text that awaited me. Sometimes I can’t tell if I read more than I was supposed to play like it was preparing for a job as a bank manager or some other subliminal purpose like that, while other times, I feel like I’m taking a class in engineering. But yeah, there was a lot of text, but I already said that.

The argument of “game or dictionary” aside, reading all the necessary information on making a nuclear reactor work is ok because it just means that the developers didn’t miss out on any important code that might have been left out in the algorithm. Of course, this is coming from a man who plays the game in English, but what about other languages?

I never tried it for myself, but I can’t imagine that it’s comfortable playing the game in Mandarin, and it’s even worse when the text is short. I bet it just looks like rows of black cubes with subtle white stripes in the middle. And I’m not just talking about Mandarin, but other languages as well. I can think of Japanese and Korean (basically, every Asian language ever). I suppose that in Spanish, it would be easier, but I don’t do that either.

It’s a really immersive game

First of all, it is important to know that this game, at its core, requires you to get everything right from the get-go because one mistake can lead to all of the Duplicants dying from asphyxiation. This is why every little detail is necessary to avoid these catastrophes that make you start a new game in frustration. Also, it was designed with English in mind (it has to be since the developers are Canadian). I suppose that those who were responsible for translating the game into other languages have their own solutions. Not that I would ever know since I play the game exclusively in English.

But I suppose that the main issue comes down to the design of the game. This is something that I say a lot when it comes to solving the issues that I present because, in truth, it’s somewhat true. If there’s a problem, then blame the developers for their methodology. I don’t do that because I respect that it’s their game and no one else has a say on how to make it better.

But in regards to Oxygen Not Included, it’s meant to have so much text to explain all the arbitrary mechanics in the game. So the solution is basically giving your feedback on Reddit because that’s where contemporary developers gather all their desired information on how to make their games better.

How much text do YOU need in your game?

On the occasion that you don’t want to go to Reddit, for whatever reason, you can just stay here and tell me what you think. What do you think should be done about a supernumerary amount of text? Because honestly, I don’t have much to say this time.

In Conclusion…

Oxygen Not Included is both fun and rage-inducing, so if you’re into games that have both survival and simulation elements, give it a try. Still, you’ll probably create a lot of different saves just to understand how the game works.

In regards to text amount, some games just like tricking their players into reading more than playing. As I said, it’s more of a design choice than a problem, and those who see it as a problem should find something else to play.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to build tombstones for all my dead Duplicants who died from starvation and then abandon that game to start a new game. That’s how frustrating this game is…