Over the past few days I’ve really made a concerted effort to make my way through God of War. I genuinely do love that game but have found the toughest part about continuing my play-through of it to be just motivating myself to turn my PS4 on and dive back in. It’s a game that demands your undivided attention, but sometimes I just don’t have it in me to give it that. Sometimes I’d rather put on a TV show in one monitor and a more relaxing game in the other. A game that I barely have to pay attention to and go at my own pace.
This isn’t anything new for me though. I’ve spent almost 200 hours playing Cities: Skylines, and never once have I played without unlimited money. In the case of Cities: Skylines, it’s cathartic for me to just watch something I’ve made grow autonomously. I can glance over at it every few minutes and buy a new hospital or fix a traffic jam and then resume watching something else.
I remember doing this kind of thing a lot back when I played Star Wars Galaxies. There was a lot of grinding in that game, and trying to pay 100% attention to it was a sure fire way to get me to lose focus and fall asleep. I have friends who have done the same thing with World of Warcraft and other MMO games in the past and currently do it with games like Hearthstone.
It’s nice to be able to play something without having to be absorbed by it. Not so long ago I was using Car Mechanic Simulator 2015 for this very purpose. There was something satisfying about fixing customers’ busted up cars. It got even better when I had enough money to start buying rusted out husks of cars, repairing them, and selling them for an insane profit. I was putting the best parts on my cars, and using the limited customization options to put a unique spin on them. It was fun for a while until the lack of diversity in the cars and scenarios eventually got to me and I moved on.
More recently I’ve found a newly released game called House Flipper to fill the same void. In two days, I managed to blow through all of the built in scenarios and move on to the actual flipping of houses portion of the game. To preface, this is a game in which you are a handyman who is contracted to clean out abandoned houses, paint walls, install toilets and so on and so forth. You basically rebuild houses for people until you have enough cash to buy some gross homes, fix everything wrong with it, and sell it.
After 15 hours or so with it, I don’t think it is a very good game. It has some really bad performance issues, a ton of “jank” to it, and it’s missing some really core functionality. I should be able to see the information for the job I’m doing while at the house I’m working on. I should also be able to designate a room as a bathroom or a living room so a potential buyer doesn’t cryptically criticize my work while also being the highest bidder on the home. But despite all of these shortcomings, I really am enjoying the game and am eager to see what changes the developers make to it along the way.
I’ve had people ask me why I bother playing games like this when all they do is recreate a job I could actually do in the real world. It’s a valid point, I get that some people wouldn’t find any fun in playing these kinds of games when they could or actually do perform these tasks in real life. But I don’t think I would actually ever want to flip houses for a living or fix cars for that matter. I don’t actually have the talent or the tools to get those jobs done either. In House Flipper, they started me off with a home, some cash, clients, tools and most importantly the ability to paint walls by just clicking on them for 3 seconds. It’s the simplification and gamification of these tasks that really holds the allure for me.
These kinds of games aren’t for everyone, I get that. Some people get their fix from grinding levels in Destiny or by building up stats in The Sims. Sometimes you’re looking for something to really sink your teeth into, while other times you just want to play a more passive role. That’s what these games are for me, fun ways to waste time and still get a sense of satisfaction out of it.