Life Update: Mid April, 2020

Hello and welcome to the blog where I, a busy working parent, discuss the multitude of reasons as to why I’m not playing video games right now.

Recently I started a knitting blog, and it was part of the same WordPress instance as this one. I realized I could comment with a link to the knitting blog, or this blog, but not both. This bothered me, so I created a new WordPress account, made it an admin, and transferred all the posts to this author. It was fun to revisit all my previous posts.

Like everyone else, we’re quarantined in our home. With me already working from home, my husband a stay-at-home-dad, and Indy not in school yet, it’s not a major change. The biggest one is that the two other humans never leave the house, which for me as an introvert who’s primary love language is being left alone, has been difficult. It’s hard for the kid because everything fun is closed: the library, playgrounds*, museums, the zoo, the dog park. Going to Grandma and Grandpa’s is definitely off-limits: we want to keep them healthy.

On the bright side, the weather is warming up. This means we can take Meabel outside to play. I’ve been teaching her how to play fetch with the Frisbee. She is not the brightest dog, but she makes up for it in enthusiasm!

I’d mostly been playing The Sims 4 during the first part of social isolation, then yesterday I decided what I really wanted to do was take my aggression out on pixelated monsters. I played Diablo III. My Crusader is so OP. The usual plot-heavy games that normally appeal haven’t. I want something more mindless. I’m thinking of picking up WoW Classic again, but this time I want to find a super casual (but still socially active) Alliance-side guild to chat with while leveling. If one even exists.

My husband and kid are currently watching old bike races because my husband is bummed some big bike race is canceled. We have resorted to more screen time since we can’t go anywhere–mostly tablet games, because the kid flips his lid when it’s time to be done watching TV. We’re going to give TV a try later this afternoon and see how it goes.

Cover image via pxfuel. I’ve missed the tree leaves so much, and I’m happy to see them budding again!

*Not really but we tell him they are.

Revisiting The Witcher 3

I started playing The Witcher 3 back in November and now if my estimations are correct, I’m about halfway through the game. I’m playing the main story and side quests I read about in various “best side quests from The Witcher 3” articles online. This technique is helping me with a trap I often get myself into with open world games where I find myself with a todo list of quests. I feel like I need to finish all of them, and I’m not sure which ones to do first, or which ones are fun and which ones are just “go kill something.”

(I did do a couple of contracts (“go kill this monster” quests) because I needed more gold, as being Mr. Nice Witcher was causing my armor and weapons to wear out.)

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Everything here in disrepair.

When I’m playing the game, I’m enjoying myself, but when I find myself with some time to game, I often have to talk myself into playing it. Few of the quests have had the sort of plot where I really want to know what happens. Plus, a lot of the characters are continually referencing things that happened in the past in previous games, and I have no desire to play those at this point. But for the most part when I play, I enjoy myself.

I also want to finish the game so I can watch the show. I know the show and game don’t have the same plot, but it seems like a good idea in my head and is a good motivator for finishing the game. I think the story might work better for me as a show than a game–we’ll see. Rock, Paper, Shotgun compares the bathtub scenes from the show and the game! It’s hilarious. As in, which would be the better bathing experience (I did think the tub in the game was rather small.)

In other words, I’d say the game is pretty good, and I’ll keep playing for now.

Cover Image from this wallpaper site.

The Parent Trope’s Top 5 Games of the Decade

Before writing this, I had to decide if I wanted to base this list on games I played from 2010-2020, or games that were released between 2010 and 2020. I ended up going with the release date, mainly because I couldn’t remember if I played Dragon Age: Origins in 2009 or 2010. (I think it was 2009.)

5. The Sims 4

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I didn’t like The Sims 4 as much as The Sims 3, but 3 came out in July 2009. And even though I miss many things about 3, I’ve still enjoyed 4 quite a bit after I got over the fact that it just wasn’t going to have the create-a-style tool. The graphics in The Sims 4 are gorgeous, and even with more limited options I’ve had a lot of fun building various things in the game. Such that I’ve clocked a lot of hours in the game. I don’t know how to check that in Origin, and frankly I’m not sure I want to know.

4. Life is Strange

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I like adventure games. Life is Strange is an amazing adventure game. I was completely hooked by this story, and the time travel piece added just the right extra element. I played quite a few adventure games in this decade, but this one has to be my favorite. The plot, the characters, the choices, the incredible length of the thing. It somehow manages to be a classic adventure game and a modern game at the same time.

3. Civilization 6

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Civ 6 was my game of the year last year, and honestly I thought about making it game of the year again for 2019, because it’s that good. The Gathering Storm added many fun new systems to the game that made it exciting all over again. It might even be my favorite Civ game, although I still have a special place in my heart for Civ 3.

2. Don’t Starve

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This is one of my favorite games ever. Top five for sure. If we’re just going by hours played it would probably be number two (after The Sims 3). Let’s not find out, though, because that would be embarrassing. The point is, I love this game. A friend told me about it when it was released in 2013 and then I spent so much time trying not to die.

Don’t Starve made me think I like survival games, but eventually I realized that I don’t. I just like Don’t Starve. I like the artsy graphics that look hand-drawn. I like the little characters and their quirks. I like the weirdness of it all. That’s what I like the best. Running into something and not knowing if it’s going to kill you or if you can chop it down or eat it. Maybe it will make you go insane and start seeing shadow creatures. If it chases you, jump down a wormhole and end up who knows where.

1. Mass Effect 2

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Mass Effect 2 barely scrapes into the list having a release date of January 2010. I played Mass Effect 2 after finishing Dragon Age: Origins and hearing that Mass Effect was “like Dragon Age in space.” It did not disappoint. I don’t know why I started with 2 and not 1, but I loved 2 enough that I went back to play 1.

Mass Effect 1 had overly complicated combat and that terrible mako vehicle you had to drive around on occasion (see why I never got past the 4 hour mark in Mass Effect: Andromeda). But by now I was hooked on this whole universe and I wanted to start Mass Effect 2 with choices I actually made in the first game. Plus, I’d discovered the joy of playing renegade–and I really wanted to be able to recruit Morinth.

This game is, to me, what an RPG should be. Intriguing plot, exceptional characters, smooth combat, and not wasting countless minutes getting from quest point A to quest point B because someone decided all RPGs have to be “open world.” It’s the best. I don’t think we’ll ever get a game quite like it.

Cover image via xbox wallpapers.

Finding Time for Gaming as a Parent

I’m writing this with my almost-four-year-old hanging on my arm. He’s at the age where he wants to spend 100% of his waking hours (and let’s be honest, his sleeping hours as well) with me or his dad. With jobs and other responsibilities, it’s hard to find time to play video games. Gone are the weekends where I used to spend all day in front of the computer, immersed in another world. I still want to play video games, though, and I know I’m not alone. I belong to a Facebook group for parents who like video games. Many of my fellow gaming bloggers happen to be parents as well. We have kids, we want to game, but how do we find the time? I asked the Facebook group for their tips and compiled my own, and the result is this list.

Game With Your Kid

This works best for older kids. Indy is just getting to the age where he’s able to play some basic games with grown-ups. Sometimes we take turns playing fruit ninja on my phone. He spends more time meticulously choosing his blade and background than actually slicing fruit, but that’s fine. He plays Mario Kart with my brother. He’s terrible at it, but he has fun and you have to start somewhere. Nintendo Wii and classic systems and lego games come highly recommended for playing with your kid.

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Not all games are kid-friendly, though. I’ve been playing Witcher 3 and I don’t want to play that with my kid around, much less play it with him. Although, I remember my husband playing Witcher 3 on the xbox while holding our child as a tiny baby.

Game During Nap Time

This works particularly well if you’re a Stay-At-Home-Parent, but there is one important requirement: your kid has to take naps. Indy stopped taking naps at about 2 1/2, and no longer having nap time cut big into gaming time. We miss nap time.

On weekends, we’ve replaced it with…

Game During Screen Time

We give our kid some screen time on weekend afternoons that usually turns into game time for me. The feasibility of this technique depends on your kid’s age, how much screen time you want them to have, and if they’re the sort of kid who will sit happily in front of a screen and not bother you for a few hours. Plop the kid down with some educational games on the tablet and go play some less educational games yourself.

Hire a Babysitter

Babysitters don’t have to just be for going out! Recently my parents took Indy for the weekend and while my husband and I did go out for dinner, we spent most of the following afternoon playing video games. (This might sound like a cute couple bonding experience, but he played City of Heroes in the living room while I played Witcher 3 upstairs.) I played the game straight for about four hours.

Take a Day Off Work

I used to take a day off work whenever Bioware launched a new Dragon Age or Mass Effect game. I know I’m not alone in this technique–a former coworker took a day off for Fallout 4. If Dragon Age 4 ever comes out, I’ll probably do this again. Having a SAHD husband makes me feel a bit guilty about it. This method only works for working parents.

Game While Your Kid’s Sleeping

This technique came up the most in the Facebook group and it’s something we do, too. My husband does group content with his City of Heroes guild Sunday evenings after the kid goes to bed. I don’t game every night, but sometimes I’ll get an hour of playtime after he goes to sleep.

If after bedtime doesn’t work for you, early morning is possible. One person on the Facebook group noted that her husband gets up at 5am to play. I’m definitely not a morning person, but if you are, that’s an option.

Make Gaming a Priority

Before you have kids, it’s easier to find time to game. I remember getting off work for the weekend and having two whole days of nothing to do stretched out before me. Now that I have a kid, I have to be more strategic. If I want to game, I have to keep in mind that it’s something I want to make time to do. After you have kids, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to fit all your leisure activities into your now much busier schedule. You might have to drop a thing or two. For me, I don’t binge watch TV anymore. I realized it was very time sucking and not as gratifying as gaming or reading.

Gaming might take precedence over other activities, too. One person in my Facebook group said, “We definitely play instead of, like, cleaning, which isn’t the most adult decision we’ve ever made.”

Take a Break

Maybe none of these ideas will work for you and your family, or maybe you’re just too tired and need to prioritize sleep. That’s understandable. Hopefully one day our kids will be grown, the economy won’t have collapsed so we’ll all have ample money to retire on, and we’ll have all the free time in the world. We can move into a comfy nursing home with great wifi and game the day away until our 5pm dinner.

When my kid was a newborn, I didn’t game. I was too exhausted. Having a newborn took every ounce of energy out of me. But eventually he got bigger, started sleeping though the night, and taking regularly scheduled naps. Then I could game again.

Several people in the Facebook group commented that they no longer have time to game, but for now enjoy living vicariously through the group and enjoy the memes.

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Cover Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash. This is not my kid and I don’t own a Switch.

Life Update: Early December, 2019

I thought it was past time for a blog post, so here’s what’s been going on with me and my family lately. Since the last update I did was back in September 2018, I have a few things to catch up on.

The biggest change for our family is that my husband Will became a stay at home dad! This is an old update; we’ve been doing this for about a year now. I don’t remember the exact date. Like all things, there’s positives and negatives. We have to make less money go further, but we also have more flexibility. Since I work from home, it means we’re all home most of the time. That’s been a challenge for me working, so I’m on a waiting list for a local coworking space. I hope one opens soon!

In other big news, we got a puppy! Maebel came to live with us last May. She is a lab mix rescue and while I love her, she’s been a lot for this Cat Person to handle. I realize a puppy pic is required here.

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And here she is now (about 9 months old)!

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And I got an iPhone 11, which means a significant phone picture quality upgrade from my old 8.

This summer, Will and I took a trip with my dad, uncle, and some cousins to Lake Superior Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. We camped, canoed, and picked tons of wild blueberries. It was beautiful.

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In September I went to San Francisco for a conference called Calibrate for software engineering leaders. It was amazing, and I’m sad it’s the last one but happy I was able to make it to attend this one. I stayed an extra day and met up with a friend. Her fiance happened to be joining some clients on their belated holiday party on a boat in the bay. We were invited to join. It was a once in a lifetime experience for someone like me, a Michigander who doesn’t get out to the West Coast very often!

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I haven’t spent a ton of time gaming. I briefly dabbled with WoW Classic, but got bored and gave up. I’ve played some Civ 6 (the Gathering Storm expansion is a lot of fun), Sims 4, Dragon Age: Inquisition (for the third time), and I have gotten further in The Witcher 3. I was thinking about how last year I did a game of the year, but I don’t think I have the heart to do that this year. Maybe I need to bite the bullet and buy RimWorld even though it never goes on sale on Steam [rage emoji]. I know I’d love that game. But I did have my question answered in this episode of the Massively OP podcast, so that’s cool (if only I could pick an MMO to actually try and find a guild in). I showed my kid Indy* Fruit Ninja on my phone and we play that together sometimes!

I’m still doing a lot of knitting and yarn dying, but since I can’t knit yarn as fast as I can dye it, I’ve slowed down on the dyeing front. Here’s a recent skein dyed based on early fall colors and I love how it turned out!

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My husband and dad have been working together to build a deck for our house in the backyard. It’s almost done and they just need to add stairs. We live in Michigan, which means they’ve had to do a considerable amount of deck building in cold and even snowy weather. (I don’t have a photo of the deck. Don’t tell my husband.)

I barely won NaNoWriMo! This is my second win. My first was way back in 2012. (If you don’t already know, NaNoWriMo is a yearly challenge in November to write a novel (50,000 words) in one month.) I finished at 50,010 words. The novel is incomplete, and if I’m being honest, I’ll probably rewrite most of it if I decide to continue the project.

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Speaking of challenges, I finished my 50th book for 2019, completing my Goodreads challenge. Book number 50 was Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo. I highly recommend it if you like real world magic and secret societies.

And that’s it, sort of an early 2019 recap! Bring on 2020!

Cover image taken by me at LSPP in Canada.

Witcher 3 First Impressions: Is it Really an RPG Though?

I realize it’s been months since I last posted, and here I am ready to talk about a game I recently started playing: The Witcher 3. Yeah, I know, it came out in 2015. I’m a bit behind. I bought it on Steam sale for about $7 and decided to give it a whirl. Even though it’s a narrative heavy RPG (something I like) I’d avoided it because I prefer RPGs where I can customize my character or at the very least play as a woman. In The Witcher 3 you’re stuck playing Geralt, an overly-buff, white-haired sword wielder who has a few minor magical abilities.

Playing Geralt definitely feels like I’m in a heterosexual male fantasy: he’s muscular, sarcastic, and has plenty of girlfriends. His voice is deep and grizzled, and I wonder how many packs of cigarettes the voice actor had to smoke before completing his scenes. I rebel by making my Geralt the kindest possible version of himself in his dialog options.

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Geralt. So broad-shouldered. So gravely-voiced.

I play this and wonder if you can really call it an RPG? RPG stands for “Role Playing Game” and while technically you’re playing the role of Geralt, the term RPG is taken from the tabletop gaming world where players create their own characters. Can a game be considered an RPG if you’re forced to play a specific character? Or is Witcher 3 more of an adventure game with combat? Most people wouldn’t call Life is Strange a roleplaying game even though you’re playing the role of Max Caulfield. What makes that an adventure game but Witcher 3 an RPG? Is Witcher 3 an RPG because of it’s fantasy setting? is Life is Strange an adventure game because there’s no combat? I really don’t know–let me know what you think in the comments.

On to better topics: cats in the game, and whether or not you can pet them.

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Early in the game I ended up at a tavern and while questioning in the patrons I found a cat. I couldn’t pet the cat and the cat hissed at me. It might have something to do with my cat eyes. Very disappointing.

Despite not being able to pet the cat and Geralt not being my ideal player character (he does have nice hair and the cat eyes are cool), I am interested in the lore. I’ll try to focus on that as I keep playing.

Cover image via this website. I thought I’d finally found one without a person in it, but I was wrong. Cat photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash.

Let’s Try Something New

I want to try some new (to me) MMOs.

I’m not playing any MMOs right now and I’d like that to change. I haven’t tried every MMO out there, and I was thinking about finally giving Final Fantasy XIV a try when I thought, why not try a few? I’ve worked on compiling this list of MMOs I haven’t and would like to try. Since Blaugust is happening again, I’m going to take that time to try out some games and write up my thoughts. Maybe I’ll even find a game I want to stick with.

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Each new game will be like a little gift to me from me. Photo by Ekaterina Shevchenko on Unsplash.

What MMOs Shall I Try?

Final Fantasy XIV – This has been at the top of my “maybe I should try this” game list for a while, so I’m definitely going to give it a shot. I’ve never played a Final Fantasy game. Maybe I’ll be hopelessly lost, but that’s why this is a trial, right?

Albion Online – I love isometric games, okay? Maybe it’s a nostalgia thing, but I dig it. I’m concerned about this game being PVP-centric, but I haven’t played much PVP and maybe I’m missing this huge piece of gameplay I’ll actually love. We’ll see.

SWTOR – Technically I’ve played this game since beta tested it. But since I was actually testing the game and reporting bugs, and that was many years ago, I think it deserves another visit. I mean, it’s Bioware.

Star Trek Online – This is on the list because I loved Star Trek: The Next Generation as a kid. Probably the only game on my list because of the IP. I normally prefer games that are new universes instead of existing IPs, and I can’t think of many IPs that would instantly make me want to play something. Okay, I tried both the Harry Potter mobile games and liked neither of them.

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Riker: one of my first fictional crushes

Black Desert Online – I want to try this game because I think the would looks incredibly pretty and it might be fun to explore. I also heard the character creation is lots of fun. (Is that still available outside the game? It would be great to create a character outside of the Steam two hour reimbursement window.)

Path of Exile – I found this looking at Massively OP’s game column list to see if there was anything on there I hadn’t tried yet. I saw this one. It’s not spectacularly appealing, and if I have to cut a game from my list, this might be the one to go.

Do you play any of these games?

I’d love a tour guide! Hit me up via the contact form, Blaugust Discord (I’m “Alli”), or email (allirense AT gmail) and let me know what you play and you can show me the ropes.

Any Suggestions?

Got an idea for another MMO I should try? My list is getting full, but I don’t want to miss out on something awesome. Here’s a bit about what I’ve already tried and what I look for in games if you have a suggestion.

I’ve previously played World of Warcraft, Secret World Legends, Maplestory, and if you count it–Pokemon Go. I’ve tried Guild Wars 2, Eve Online, ESO, Project Gorgon, Wild Terra Online, and LOTRO. I have no interest in playing City of Heroes, Rift, or any looter-shooters with MMO-like qualities. I tend to be drawn towards games with a more western character style and I like bright colors. I’m fine with isometric and I love stylistic graphics, but I don’t like Minecraft-style voxels.

My main gaming motivators are exploration and story. You can read more about my motivation profile here.

Know something I might like? Let me know in the comments!

Cover image via Black Desert Online. That game is just so gash darn purdy!

Anthem? No Thank You

Anthem. It’s coming soon, people are talking about it, there was a demo, and yet I wish it didn’t exist. Let me explain why.

I primarily play four types of video games: adventure games, RPGs, strategy games, and MMOs. Let’s put aside strategy games and MMOs for a second and focus on story. For me, both RPGs and adventure games are all about the story. The story is my reward. In adventure games it’s more obvious: solve some puzzles, unlock more stories. When I play RPGs, what hits my reward center in the brain is the same: more story. Kill some baddies, do some quests, unlock more story.

Loot and gear doesn’t interest me aside from that it allows me to complete more content and get more of the story. If I could play the entire game with the same armor and weapons I’d be fine with that. Gaining new skills is fun, but also not my primary motivation.

It should be no surprise that I loved Dragon Age: Origins. It was completely story-driven and everything I did unlocked more pieces of the story. I knew next to nothing going into the game; I’d only heard from others that it was good. I called in sick the next day because I had to keep playing. I’d become attached to the characters and I needed to know what would happen next. Someone told me I’d probably also like Mass Effect 2, so I played that. When I finished, I wanted to play the first one to play the story I’d missed. The first one wasn’t as good: the combat was clunkier, but the story was still there so I didn’t mind. I was just killing baddies to get more story. The one part I hated was driving the mako around desolate planets looking for stuff.

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Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy exploration. I particularly dig it in MMOs. What I hate is being unable to find something specific, which is exacerbated by trying to maneuver a vehicle with difficult controls.

People gave Dragon Age II a hard time, but I loved it. Yeah, the combat zones were all repeated, but who cares? The combat isn’t the point of the game! And the story was good and not your typical fantasy RPG story. Plus Hawke is the best player character since April Ryan. I didn’t love the Mass Effect 3 ending, but it didn’t bother me as much as most people. I still loved those games.

Then Inquisition came out. Before Inquisition there was Skyrim. It was very popular and featured an “open world.” I played it. It took me a while to get into it. I hadn’t played a non-Bioware modern RPG. I found the NPCs incredibly boring and my quest log just filled up with so many quests and I didn’t know what to do. I’d about given up on it when I read somewhere about certain quest lines that were interesting, and after a lot of mods, I finally got into it. When I heard Inquisition was going to be more open-world I was very disappointed. I didn’t want Bioware following trends and trying to make their next game more like Skyrim. I just wanted another Dragon Age game.

The intro started off well enough. We had some returning characters and intriguing new ones. Then we were dumped in this Hinterlands place—and it was an open world and we had 101 things to do there. I didn’t want to do these things. They were boring. I don’t like side quests. They distract from the main story. (Unless it’s Skyrim and the main story is boring and the side quests are more fun, but I’d prefer a brilliant main story and a handful of side quests that tie in to the plot—which I thought Mass Effect 2 did the best.) I found out I just had to do enough to get out of there and unlock more main quest, but I kept getting lost. My objective would be just beyond that mountain that I couldn’t climb over! I’d run around in circles and just get mad at the game. I’d still say I loved Inquisition—there was enough story and character development to make up for all the frustration of not being able to find silly side quest objectives.

But then we got Mass Effect: Andromeda. Which seemed like Inquisition, in space. And the mako came back. My least favorite thing in the entire original Mass Effect trilogy was a big part of the new game. I have 4 hours into my trial on Origin and I keep thinking maybe I’ll come back, but my play time is limited.

All I want is for Bioware to make the kind of game they’re good at. No trend chasing. I don’t love open-world RPGs and I like playing Bioware games alone. By myself. Aren’t video games supposed to be an introverted hobby? I like MMOs because they’re a mix of playing solo and being social. I like RPGs because you can play by yourself. I’m not a trend chaser. I’m not interested in MOBAs or battle royale, and Don’t Starve is the only survival game I’ve ever loved.

This is a very long explanation of why I’m not interested in Anthem to the point of being disgruntled about its existence. While I know there is a story, from what I’ve read, it’s not _about_ the story. Gear collection and customization seems to be a primary goal, which as I’ve said, does not interest me. After the game releases, if the reaction is positive, I might watch some Let’s Play videos and decide if it’s something I want to spend money on, but I’m not feeling optimistic. The flight suits are a turn-off for me: if I’m going to be playing a game that involves just running around fighting things, I don’t want to have to navigate a 3D space. I’m a bad enough navigator in real life. My biggest hope for Anthem is that it flops and Bioware can go back to making Bioware games. It seems more likely that it will flop and Bioware will fold into EA’s all-encompassing bosom. Even more likely that it will succeed and Dragon Age 4 will be an open world RPG focused on multiplayer and crafting where you fly around on a dragon.

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Jetpacks? Power suits? Sounds fun in real life, but more trouble than they’re worth in a video game.

I want _story_. I think video games are the best way we have to tell a story. Better than TV, film, and even books. Because they’re the most immersive, they have the biggest impact. I was thinking recently about the huge emotional impact I felt after playing Life is Strange. I wondered if my feelings would have been as strong if I’d read it as a book. Probably not. A major part of the impact comes from actually being a participant in the story.

Bioware was a major studio actually leveraging the amazing storytelling power of video games. Now their next major game gives story a backseat. Where do we go from here?

Cover image is from Dragon Age: Inquisition. Still a good game, despite all the boring bits.

Video Game Motivation

Yesterday I talked about motivations for blogging, today I’m talking about motivations for gaming. I’ve taken the Bartle test (I’m an Explorer) and the Quantic Foundry Motivation Profile (I’m Calm, Spontaneous, Relaxed, Deeply Immersed, and Creative!). Given my results and my own experiences, I’ve come up with a list of my own motivations for gaming.

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While I’d place them both high, I’m surprised Creativity surpassed Immersion.

Exploration

When I’m playing video games I like to be surprised. One of my favorite gaming moments was playing Don’t Starve. If you’re not familiar, it’s a survival game with stylized graphics and a creepy atmosphere. I didn’t expect it to be my cup of tea, but a friend raved about it and it was on sale for five dollars. I hadn’t gotten very far and was exploring when I came across a chest. I opened it and it suddenly became winter, but inside was a bunch of treasures to help me survive the season. Woah! My reaction was “Holy crap, what is happening?”

Exploration for exploration’s sake doesn’t do it for me. I need a reason to explore. In Don’t Starve, if you don’t explore and collect things you need, you’ll die. The reason might be that you’re trapped in a giant virtual maze and need to find the way out. Or perhaps you’re looking for clues to solve a mystery.

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Photo by Fineas Anton on Unsplash.

Story

I love a good story. I like reading them, hearing them, writing them, but most of all playing them. Here’s another gaming moment. I was playing Dragon Age: Origins for the first time. I didn’t know what to expect from the game, but I met the character Alistair and he was sarcastic and funny. I thought to myself, “This character is awesome! I hope he sticks around for a while!” You know what ruins a good story in a video game? Bioware clearly forgot: Pointless. Side. Quests.

I have yet to find a game that successfully blends story and exploration. The closest I can think of us Skyrim, but I had to force myself out of a “I have this list of quests and I must go do them” mindset to enjoy that game. Firewatch comes to mind. I remember moments where I felt like I was exploring, but the game was linear. Myst perhaps; but I don’t remember the story of Myst. I remember the puzzles. I used to want this: a game where you explored and it told a story. I’ve begun to think that every game that tries this fails. I’d rather have one or the other.

Creativity

The Sims 3 is my favorite Sims. I like the creation part of the Sims games: outfits, houses, public places, etc. The Sims 3 let you be meticulous about design elements with the create-a-style tool. It broke my heart when it wasn’t in The Sims 4. (I’ve still been playing 4 because the graphics are so pretty.) I haven’t really found another game that scratches my creative itch.

Create_a_Style
I was so into having all my wood styles match. Image from The Sims Wiki.

Strategy

This is where the programmer in me comes out: I like to solve puzzles. I like to figure out the best way to win. I’m not into making spreadsheets to determine the best stats for my WoW character. I prefer trial and error: If I do this, will I get more points? What does this weapon do and is it effective for my play style? My favorite way to find out is to try it.

What motivates you to play video games?

Strategy is why I’ve been playing Civ 6, but if you want to know why I often quit halfway through the game and start over, look back to Exploration. Cover image from the very beginning of one of my games. What’s out there?

Sims Features I Want in Real Life

Money Cheat

You create your Sim family and purchase them a one-bedroom, poorly decorated house. You give them entry level jobs. They had to work, do their jobs, get promotions, and eventually you can update the house…

money_cat
In my dream world, you’d type “motherlode” up into the ether and a cat would come by with $50k for you.

Yeah, right. You create your family and without hesitation, pop in the money cheat. Now they’re rich and you move them to the biggest and create them the your amazing fancy dream house. I can’t imagine playing The Sims without the money cheat. Sure, I’ve played some families with limited means and tried out the legacy challenge, but it’s way more fun building houses with indoor swimming pools.

sims4aptstuff
You think Sims get to live in the downtown penthouse with basketball court thanks to hard work and determination? Yeah, right!

Then I send them to work anyway because they can only swim in their indoor pool so many times before it gets boring.

Instant Employment

You want a job? Just go on your computer and get an entry level job in the field of your choice. Your requirements for a promotion are clearly laid out. No applications and cover letters, no “it’s who you know, not what you know”, and no office politics.

Bonehilda

Bonehilda is a skeletal butler that your sims could purchase and the only buyable item in the game that stood out to me when . She came with expansion packs for Sims 1 and 3. She was the best thing in the Sims 3 Supernatural pack, which I otherwise found rather mediocre. Unlike human butlers, she doesn’t have regular human needs. If you buy multiple Bonehildas, they’ll team up and work together. If they run out of things to do, they’ll train your dog. How awesome is that?

Bonehilda_posing

There’s one other buyable item: I remember Sims 3 had a teleporter. Since teleportation is my hypothetical superpower of choice, I’d take the device.

Click to Redecorate

Tired of blue walls? Click! Now they’re purple! Drag and drop a giant painting on the wall. Replace your sofa with just a few mouse clicks. Even if you pay for painting, furniture delivery, and art installation in real life, you still have to wait for the professionals. In the Sims, you can try a different decor style every day.

Change your Look

In real life if you decide you want to loose weight, you usually have to follow a diet and exercise plan. It’s hard. It takes a long time. It’s difficult to maintain. In the Sims, all you have to do is exercise a few times and boom, you’ve lost weight. If you want to gain weight, that’s easy, too. Just eat when you’re already full a couple times and off you go.

rock-climbing-treadmill
3 hours on the rock climbing treadmill and you’re good to go!

Changing your hair is easier, too. A major hair change in real life requires a trip to the salon. In the Sims, you just need a trip to your nearest mirror.

Talk to Strangers

Making friends as a grown up in real life is hard. Making friends in the Sims is easy. Step 1, go to a public location and chat up some strangers. They won’t find this strange at all. They’ll be happy to stand and talk to you until one of you needs to use the bathroom. Step two, tell a lot of jokes. Funny interactions boost relationships. You can go from complete strangers to friends in one or two days. Then you have to maintain the friendship, which is a lot more like real life: spending time with the other person.

Sim life would be pretty awesome. But it would also take you about a half hour to go to the bathroom. It’s way easier to set fires in your kitchen. Ghosts and vampires are real. I like being able to cook more than 5-20 different dishes. I’ll take real life for now, but if someone could come up with a way that I can redecorate my house by clicking and dragging my mouse, that would be awesome. I’d have my art hanging on the walls instead of just leaning up against them.

Question: If you grew and butchered a cow plant, would the meat be vegetarian?

Cover image from the Sims 4 Outdoor Retreat pack. I want to go to there.