How 60 Seconds! comically mirrors quarantine life and helps us cope

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By Alex Alusheff

My family wasted away in a fallout shelter for almost four weeks.

Our food and water supplies were running dangerously low. It was time for me to explore the wasteland above once more and scavenge anything I could to keep my wife, daughter, and son alive long enough for the army to rescue us.

On Day 27 of bunker life, I leave my family. If my expedition is fruitless, everyone will die.

Survival game 60 Seconds! is described as a dark comedy atomic adventure by developer Robot Gentleman and available on the PC, Switch, PS4 and Xbox One. Set in the 1950s, you spend the first 60 seconds of the game stomping around your home collecting family members and enough supplies to hopefully last you until you’re eventually rescued.

The controls during this part of the game are pretty clunky. With a top-down, third-person view, you use the directional keys to lead the mother or father through the cluttered home as you click on anything nearby to grab it. You then run back to your shelter entrance, click it to dump what you’re carrying, and run back and forth before time runs out. 

There are many times where the clicks won’t register or you’ll get yourself stuck on a wall and your run will be ruined. I think the clunkiness is intentional as it adds to the tension and excitement. 

The rest of the game switches to survival management mode where you just point and click in different menus. This is the part where you can view the status of your family, portion out rations, act on different scenarios presented to you each day, and choose who will go foraging in the wasteland above to prolong your miserable existence.

Though the game takes place during a doomsday scenario of the Cold War, it bears an uncanny resemblance to daily life under quarantine during the COVID-19 global pandemic in 2020.

As each day passes in the game, journal entries reveal the increasing fear, anxiety and eventual hysteria expressed by the family members. It almost directly mimics what’s going on in real life. It makes this game, which was released in 2015 and remastered in 2019, more relevant than ever. And it makes it almost too real to be enjoyable.

I live in Ohio with my wife and infant daughter. The state has been under stay-at-home orders since March 22. We have been fortunate enough to work from home together since March 16. As of writing this, we have been cooped up together for two months. Cabin fever set in at the beginning of May.

Cabin fever sets in for the family in 60 Seconds! as well. Every time I read a journal entry about the kids fighting or morale decreasing, I am reminded of the many disputes that occur between my wife and I now that we are together 24/7. This has definitely taken a toll on our relationship.

The mother in the game, Dolores, worries about the education of her children as I worry about whether my daughter is getting enough stimulation each day. There are times when I am working that I catch a glimpse of her staring at me. She’s not crying or being fussy, but she looks bored. I become paranoid that I am letting her down and that this will lead to her falling behind in milestones like crawling, walking and talking. 

Each time you send a family member out on an expedition in the game, you better send them out in a gas mask or they will come back sick. 

Every time I leave the house to go grocery shopping or pick up food from a restaurant, I wear a face mask. This risk I am taking when I get in my car always weighs heavy on my mind. Will I be around someone who is asymptomatic and bring the disease into my house? Could I get my daughter sick? Could I be a carrier and infect someone else?

When I return home, I throw my clothes in the laundry bin, sanitize everything I touch and then shower before interacting with my family again. My wife refuses to leave the house entirely unless it’s on walks in the subdivision.

Certain scenarios you are presented with in 60 Seconds! also feel strikingly familiar. You may find your bunker assaulted by armed old ladies or raided by a merry band of gentlemen. On one trip to the wasteland, my son discovered that the city had been taken over by militants.

This reminded me of the armed protesters who gathered outside Michigan’s capitol building to decry the stay-at-home order. This isn’t an episode of the Twilight Zone or Black Mirror or a scenario in 60 Seconds! This is real life.

Don’t get me wrong. This game did not give me depression or exacerbate my anxiety. It was funny as hell. It’s definitely worth a buy and you can pick it up for $10 on Steam. There’s also a space version of the game called 60 Parsecs!

Despite it’s striking resemblance to our lives, the game provides the needed escapism and colorful humor to remain enjoyable. I bought it because it was almost a satire to what is going on in the world. And as my wife says when something doesn’t go as hoped, “Sometimes you just gotta laugh.”

I am not ignorant to nearly 300,000 deaths worldwide. Or how devastated the economy is and how people are jobless or about to be furloughed. I am very fortunate so far. Both my wife and I remain employed, and I am blessed that my wife and I both remain employed, and my mother-in-law successfully recovered from contracting COVID-19.

But all this doom and gloom is overwhelming and we need games like 60 Seconds! to give us something relatable for comic relief.

Toward the end of my first playthrough, the father of the game, Ted, returned to his family six days later with nothing. It’s now Day 33. The two kids had been sick since Day 6 when radioactive roaches invaded the bunker. Everyone looks absolutely disgusting –  snot dripping down their face, zombie-like expressions, disheveled hair.

On Day 34, I give Ted the last of the food and water. I want him to suffer and watch all his family members die in front of him. He deserves it. How did he leave for six days and return with no food or water? Six days, Ted! What the hell did you do all that time?

We didn’t have the right item in our bunker to be rescued by the Army either, so we were definitely going to die.

On Day 34, I sent the son, Timmy, out on an expedition, hoping he would bring something back in time to keep the family alive.

On Day 36, I sent out the starving wife, Dolores, to the neighbor’s house to raid his lock box, hoping food might be stored there. She managed to bring back a map before she died. Her skeleton sat next to Ted for the rest of the game. I laughed at the goofy animation.

On Day 38, the daughter, Mary Jane, stormed out of the bunker, hysterical from dehydration, never to be seen again.

On Day 39, a stranger knocked on the door and offered Ted a bottle of fluid. I had him drink it. It turned out to be irradiated and Ted died. The greedy bastard.

The game ended on Day 42, when it was assumed Timmy had died out in the wasteland. It was probably for the best that this family line ended. Its decision-making skills were terrible. I did the post-apocalyptic society a favor. And I gave Ted a farwell similar to The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allen Poe.

Yes, the game seems gloomy, but it’s littered with humor throughout.

At one point, I played harmonica for a colony of dancing roaches and they brought me food and water. I found it to be hilarious given the fact that it was the same roaches that got my family sick in the first place.

The game lends itself to many playthroughs. What if I decided not to grab any family members during my mad-grab for supplies in the house at the beginning of the game? You’re only given four item slots to fill before you have to run back to the shelter door and drop off supplies. The hefty daughter takes up three slots!

I definitely recommend you give this game a try if you need a laugh and a reminder that things could be much worse. Life is tough, but at least we are not at the point where gangs of old grannies are roaming around, beating people up with their canes and stealing supplies – yet

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