You must unlearn what you have learned.

When it comes to video games, I have to admit that I love complication.

As my wife will no doubt attest, I have a knack for turning any game we play from fun to boring, from boring to tedious, and from tedious to frustrating. I wish I knew why, but in all too many cases I enjoy the metagame more than the game itself. As with all nerdy newlyweds, we both dreamed of playing games together. I ostensibly crushed these dreams underfoot. When we played Diablo II, I lambasted her for leveling inefficiently. When we played Super Mario World, I threw a tantrum every time she missed an alternate level ending. I’m pretty sure I gave a lecture about zombie survival philosophy when she didn’t pick up the shotgun in Left 4 Dead.

We’re I’m getting better. I have to remember that we are coming from different worlds when it comes to gaming experience. She would play Donkey Kong Country with friends and family; I would spend years alone playing MMORPGs and even more time researching how to optimize my play time in said MMORPGs. I’m starting to realize that Final Fantasy can still be fun without EVERY item, Zelda without EVERY heart container, and Mass Effect without EVERY codex entry. I’m still not entirely sure HOW this is still fun, but I’m learning.

Part of this re-education involves how I play a game. Whereas before I usually wouldn’t play Pokemon without multiple wiki pages open and an open notepad, I’m striving now to play games organically. I completed the Mass Effect trilogy without referring to a single wiki, and even tried a Nuzlocke Challenge!

The other part of learning to simply enjoy video games has come about through playing more simply enjoyable video games.

Tetris for NES

Let’s take Tetris for example, first. I’ve always loved Tetris. Anyone who grew up with a green-and-yellow-screened Game Boy did. But when I was young and played this game, without wikis, meta-gaming, or research. Why? Because it was easy to pick up and play, its rules were simple and standard, and the ratio of time invested to entertainment was very low.

Now, the old Emgee would most likely dismiss these traits as indicative of a weak game. You don’t even have to be a nerd to enjoy Tetris! As I take a step back, I’m finding that I not only -can- still be a nerd and play casual games, but that these simple games work as a great relief to the by-product stress of the complicated games I enjoy.

An example of the orbital view in Kerbal Space Program


Don’t get me wrong–I love plotting Hohmann Transfers and scheduling retrograde insertion burns just as much everyone else. Kerbal Space Program gives me that strange mixture of fun and learning that I haven’t felt since Mario Teaches Typing. It also gives me a headache if I play for too long. Which, unsurprisingly, I do quite often.

One of my goals for this blog is to sojourn into video game reviews, and my first venture will be comparing and contrasting some of my favorite complicated games with the casual games which have caught my attention lately. Any requests?

1 comment
  1. rubybastille said:

    It’s not quite the compare-and-contrast you were going for, but I’d have fun reading a review of Samurai Gunn vs Towerfall.

    Fallout 3 is my big “completionist” game…I can get through Mass Effect without visiting EVERY planet or reading EVERY Codex entry, but I would check every stupid crate in every stupid house in Fallout 3. It makes me nervous to try newer games like Dishonored which boast about how expansive their maps are – I don’t think I could every finish a game like that.


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