Sunday, October 27, 2013

Crescent's Thoughts On: Games about Mundane things.

An engaging game about a boring job.
Honestly, I had nothing planned for today. I got school work to do, a wedding to attend, and a Black Belt testing to get ready for. So yeah, writing reviews and playing games is kind of pushed aside for now. However, next week I should have less on my plate for a while. But while I was sitting at my computer wondering what the HELL I am going to do for this post, I found a video that Youtube recommended for me which was a Let's Play of the PC game "Papers, Please." I was aware of the game before watching the Let's Play and I knew the basic premise, you are a border inspector to a fascist communist fictional nation and all you do is approve or deny entry. That's it. You also have to manage your budget as you are paid for each person processed, but are penalized for when you make a mistake, like letting a person in with invalid or missing documents. There are also terrorist attacks, a secret cult, and an overall oppressive atmosphere, but I'm not here to talk about the game. Not really. What I'm here to talk about is the rather fascinating genre of games that I can best describe as "Doing boring things."

Be a Mayor, Be in Debt, Buy a whole lot of pointless things... Huh?
You know those games, those Harvest Moons, those Animal Crossings, those games where the point of the entire game is to just do minimal tasks for hours. I've often look at these games and wonder "What the hell is the point of this game?" Maybe it's just me, but I would like to play a game where I am doing something more exciting like exploring strange and interesting locations, fighting large and challenging monsters, commanding armies of my closest and most loyal allies, and save the world, you know, fun stuff. I don't play games to do stuff like mow my lawn. I don't like mowing my lawn in real life why would I want to mow my lawn in a video game? Something that is suppose to entertain people. So why does games like "Papers, Please" and Animal Crossing become so popular, if what you are doing in game is essentially the mundane boring stuff that you want escapist fantasies to get away from? Well, I think it's not so much the activity that is engaging, but rather the the sense of reward and punishment. In real life, the money make is somewhat removed from the job you do. Even if you are paid by commission, you do not instantly get money for the work you do. You have to wait until pay day, and sometimes the quality of the work you do is not reflected in your pay. As such, you tend not to relate what you are doing with how much you are paid, unless you are self-employed. You are not rewarded or punished for the work you do.

"You're an ugly woman, DETAIN HER!"
But let's take a look at "Papers, Please." You receive money for every person screened at the end of the day in a nice little results screen. You get penalized the instant you approve a person who has invalid papers. Everything is instantaneous. You know that you did good or did bad as soon as it happens, unlike real life where good or poor performance is just as likely to be ignored as it is to be punished or rewarded. Also events happen frequently in "Papers, Please." Some days are completely uneventful outside of the usual process of Approving or Denying entry, but some days a terrorist attack happens, or there is a wanted criminal, or some secret organization is trying to infiltrate the country. At least every two in game days some sort of major event is going on. Compare this with real life where entire years can pass and no a single damn thing happens. It is this kind of instant gratification and rapid events that separates games about mundane things from actually doing said mundane things. You can make a game about border control engaging, but only when the player is rewarded for his or her actions. If you make a game about what being a border inspector is REALLY like, then you will have one boring ass game. Me personally, I still prefer the whole saving the world routine. Yeah, it's cliche, but just imagine those characters on their off days playing some Harvest Moon.

Until Next Time,

-Crescent, The sequel to "Papers, Please" "Tickets, Please."


  1. orange wizard misses u

    1. I certainly didn't miss him.

      I haven't been at Game Trailers for a long time, what kind of insanity is going on there these days?

  2. orange wizard. that insanity.