Junk Food Games

I am distinctly in the minority when it comes to games where “you can turn your brain off”. Per this week’s podcast, I’m probably at the extreme opposite end of the spectrum as Bel, who, as he puts it, tries to “get to a point where playing a game requires no thought”. Pretty much everyone on the podcast other than myself had some kind of “relaxation” game, something they’d mastered and find relaxing to play because it doesn’t really require them to be engaged.

Junk Food Games

It’s something I find hard to wrap my head around. It’s one of the blind spots in my ability to recommend games to other people and understand what they find appealing; I mostly go off of what I hear other people talk about rather than my own feelings. It strikes me as similar to people’s descriptions of cilantro– I’m aware that some people find cilantro appalling, “like eating soap”, but it’s hard for me to visualize because I don’t taste the same way. The best I can do is remember that some people really don’t like cilantro, and remember that some people relax through unengaged gaming.

I really don’t have a good set of terms to even talk about the concept. The ones that come to mind– “mindless”, “unengaged”, “requires no thought”, even “junk food” have hugely negative connotations for me, and I don’t necessarily like ascribing such negative language to what is essentially a difference in opinion. Other than that I personally get bored, I don’t have a fundamental problem with these kinds of games. I’ll get frustrated when that’s all anyone seems to want to play and I find it boring, but that’s true of anything where I’m not interested in what everyone is playing.

Junk Food Games

Spoons and Banana Split — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

What I’m more interested in sussing out is *why* I don’t have the same craving for low-stimulation games. I really do get antsy and bored when a game isn’t keeping me engaged enough– I’ve nodded off while playing all kinds of games, mostly at points where I’m just not interested in them or I’m not learning anything new. At the same time, even slow- or variable-paced games like Civ, Anno, or Crusader Kings all keep me alert, just because I’m juggling so many things in my head and managing my territory. A friend of mine suggested a possibility to me: I’ve played a lot of games, so I reach a comfortable point with them a lot sooner. She pointed out that while my threshold for boredom is a lot lower, my threshold for relaxing is a lot higher, so it’s easier for me to hit a point where a game “requires no thought”, and do with a lot more games.

Junk Food Games

I’m not convinced by that explanation, but as was (sharply) pointed out to me, I have a history of disbelieving any explanation of something that speaks to my own abilities. It’s possible that I simply learn games quickly and that I’m really doing the same thing as everyone else when I play. I don’t have a good way of knowing if the way I play most games is the way that other people play their “most relaxing” games. I do know that I don’t have any particular game I return to over and over again; I almost never play a game more than once unless it’s been long enough for me to forget significant amounts of it (and thus, relearn them while playing). I get bored quickly when playing a game I already know, even if there are little tidbits for me to still pick up. New Game+ is REALLY hit or miss for me. As a result, there aren’t really any games I can claim mastery over, but there are a lot that I feel comfortable with.

Now I really want to plug myself in to an EEG while I play and compare my results with my friends’ over various games.

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