I Played the IKEA Video Game and Became Bernard Tschumi

Matt Shaw Matt Shaw

An IKEA video game, huh? Initial reviews say its more frustrating than IKEA IRL, with the potential to make you break down or bring your relationships to ruin — just like assembling the real thing. I wanted a piece of it.

My editor advised me to spend a significant amount of time with it for a proper review. At first, it seemed like an epic task, like the time Caity Weaver spent 14 hours at TGI Friday’s eating mozzarella sticks. I braced myself for some kind of mind-bending, eye-watering marathon test of endurance.

Once I’d downloaded the game, I dove right in. It’s a little glitchy, so you have to choose “Windowed,” or it will reset the whole thing if you try to exit. But what I found inside was actually quite pleasant, a living room set to breezy music that makes you feel like you are in a 3D-modeled oxygen bar. I was prepared to give it my best honest effort.

Spoiler alert: This soon became impossible.

Play begins with a box of parts dropped on the floor, along with a picture of the finished product. However, this picture disappears as soon as you get the box open. Still, I was determined to get good at this. My first couple of lamps were real gems, but the game kept resetting on me so I don’t have the pictures of them. The game has no instructions, so guessing how to make things is the fun part. I kept forgetting what it was I was building.

Upon completing the first table, I heard my Swedish furniture guide exclaim something that sounds like “F*** yeah.” On to the lamp. This is when I had my epiphany: The IKEA game isn’t about making furniture — it’s about being an avant-garde designer.

Even trying my hardest, after several practice rounds, I still got the lamp wrong. But the funny thing is, it was turning out better when I messed it up. The same goes for the third “level,” the Gluten Table, which quite difficult because you can’t see how each piece goes together. The lack of information leaves just enough out that the player has to make decisions that are invariably misguided. But there’s a twist. Since all of the pieces have simple peg connections, each pieces can be joined to any other piece. I soon realized that the wrong answers are the best answers.

You see, the game isn’t about building IKEA furniture but becoming a Deconstructivist designer. No piece had to be correct anymore, and it was like I was Bernard Tschumi, creating these little semi-useful follies — weird amalgams of tables, lamps, and TV stands. What was supposed to be a masochistic experience of putting together furniture accidentally turned into a magical design journey, where I was the Hannes Grebin of my own little IKEA room.

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