May 1, 2008

Bad Day

It's a very good title because there is no game so guaranteed to make a bad day even worse.

At this point in their maturity as a medium, video games can satisfy many of our social functions. We can go to the movies.


We can go to art galleries.


We can be in a relationship.


But even in this golden age of $400m openings and hot next-gen narratives, there's one thing games can't do. They can't cheer me up.

Seems like it should be easy, right? Games are built on power fantasies and pleasure principles. They're designed to reward the player. None of them do what I want them to do right now, though, which is stop me feeling sad. Epic campaigns are too slow, too involved. I don't have the patience for funny dialogue. Shooting dudes doesn't make me feel very good about myself.

Legally, you're not allowed to call them "party games" if you're the only one at the party. Those are in fact "lonely games." And I don't want to be challenged, especially when that means exacting difficulty and making jumps with pinpoint precision. On the other hand, something like Endless Ocean is way too meditative and forces you to think quietly about being miserable. I'm not asking for a lot. I'm asking for a happy distraction. I guess I'm looking for something full of really bright colours and pictures of smiling babies. That'd do the trick.

I tend to fall back on the classics. The mindless simplicity of Tetris worked for a while but there was something uncomfortably literal about always ending in crushing failure and death. I did like this web version because I figured out how to cheat. I can win TypeRacer legitimately, but if I play it at work I can't actually tell the difference. Line Rider was nice until that little guy sailed into the air and snapped his neck on a line that I drew. Crayon Physics comes by far the closest. It's pleasant and tranquil and it lets me do anything I want. Problem is it's not out yet so I'm stuck with the proof-of-concept. Likewise, I have a 60-second trial of Puzzle Bobble on my cellphone and sometimes I'll just play that one demo over and over. This is not a fulfilling existence.

P.S.: Understanding what that Sonic thing is all about will also cause many bad days.

6 comments:

qrter said...

Some people would name Peggle as a "cheering up" kind of game.

Not I, though.

I think the only game that has really cheered me up, has been Portal. Which is strange.

internisus said...

Have you tried Katamari Damacy as a cheer-up game?

qrter said...

Thought of another possible one - Audiosurf, on Steam.

But that could just be because it lets you play with your favourite music, so you could still really sabotage yourself there, I guess.

Duncan said...

Good choices, guys. Although I like Audiosurf, it does rely on MUSIC that would cheer me up, which is another post entirely.

Dan Bruno said...

You might try the little Flash games at Orisinal. This one is a personal favorite.

n5corp said...

"That's NOOO good!" - Sonic