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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Not spoiling anything today!

Butch:

So the other day we talked on minecraft, and I said I didn’t get it, and you talked about Mr. O, and you said “Maybe some people like building stuff.” This got me thinking about a game that is REALLY making me miss my ex: Cities Skylines. This is basically a Sim City game that doesn’t suck. As you’re not from earth and haven’t played Sim City, here’s the gist: You build and manage cities from their founding to when they are booming cosmopolitan centers. There’s no story. No themes. You build. And I love them. I loved Sim City. I even kinda liked the one that came out a couple years ago that wasn’t that good.

I beefed that Minecraft had a lot of chores (chop wood, make planks, make planks into axe to chop more wood, etc.). City games do, too. Gotta do the tax rate, keep the citizens happy, make sure there’s enough water, power, hospitals, keep crime down, etc.

So how come minecraft strikes me as drudgery that I don’t understand and I’m moping that I can’t play Skylines?

Feminina:

I’m convinced that a lot of things will seem awesome or not awesome depending on what kind of overall mood/developmental stage you encounter them at.

Maybe for you, doing chores to build things was associated with a certain stage in your life when you felt like doing that, and so you might have loved Minecraft at that time but it didn’t exist so you loved city games, which did. And now you still nostalgically love city games, because love once kindled is a powerful thing (but who knows if you’d really love them that much if you discovered them for the first time today?), but you’re no longer at that point in life where you just generically love THAT TYPE of thing, so Minecraft seems pointless and annoying to you.

Meanwhile, other people are still at the chores/building point in their lives, or got back to it, or whatever, and so they love Minecraft. Actually, my earlier mention of ‘developmental stage’ is misleading, since I’m not really imagining this as something that one must inevitably go through in order to mature, just as a sort of individual evolution of preference. I’ll take ‘developmental stage’ out of my eventual write-up when I publish this in the academic gaming journal.

As a slightly different example, I’m just not into Game of Thrones, even though half the world adores it and it SEEMS like something I’d be into, and I think it’s largely because I read the first book immediately after finishing an unrelated series of books that, like GoT, jumped back and forth between many different characters pursuing many different political schemes while scattered all over a broad and complex world…I like it in theory but I was just DONE with that particular style of narrative at that time, and so I could not bring myself to care about another long series along the same lines. (And now, partly out of not having time to watch TV and partly out of sheer orneriness, I refuse to try again.) If I hadn’t JUST read that other series when I picked up the first book, maybe I would love GoT today!

I just think a lot depends on when in your life you come to something, as well as on what that thing is.

You’re not in a chores-and-building mood at this point in your life. Some people are in that mood. Maybe someday you will be again, maybe you never will, maybe other people will move out of it, maybe they’ll love Minecraft forever. Some people dedicate their lives to pinball! I think pinball is horrible. It’s all good.

And, again, sometimes even if you’re not really in the overall mood for a type of thing, one specific example of that thing that you loved in the past could still seem appealing, because while intellectually the game SOUNDS unappealing to you now, you REMEMBER having a lot of fun playing it, so your pleasant memory can override your instinctive sense that “this is not the kind of game I enjoy right now.”

I would be interested to have you try an experiment where you actually settle in to play Cities Skyline for a couple of months and see how well it holds your interest…but on the other hand, you should probably finish DAI.

Butch:

Nah, GoT is overrated. You’re not missing much. They overdid it on the violence and boobs and everything else kinda gets lost. But that’s someone else’s blog.

As for your “not-developmental stages” theory, Hmm. Maybe I’ll think differently in terms of this after Butch Jr. gets into minecraft for a while. I think part of it is the whole power trip bit. I mean, Minecraft, at least now, is about building huts and getting bacon. Sim City is about building a goddam CITY and RULING it! Whoo hoo! There’s a sense of bigness to it.

It’s a bit like Civilization in that sense, except civ is much more of a “pure game” in that you are trying to win, and other civilizations are trying to beat you (interesting take on human nature, no?).

I mean, one of the dirty secrets that gamers don’t like to admit is that we like the power trip. I mean, even in something storyesque like Life is Strange, you can bend time and shit.

So maybe it’s that. Chores are fine so long as they mean I can rule a city and bend it to my whim. Not so much if all I get is a hut.

I should finish DAI. And never, EVER tell me it’s a good idea to go back to the ex again. You’re supposed to be my sponsor on that or something.

Feminina:

Yeah, sorry, good point. Stay away from the ex! You’ll only wind up pouring all your booze money into one shiny new upgrade after another. Think about the booze! Won’t someone PLEASE think of the booze?!

There is something about ruling an entire city as opposed to building a hut. But in Minecraft you can eventually build entire cities, you just have to work your way up from huts, so maybe it’s about the pleasures of starting small and seeing where you can go. Your cities probably started fairly small too, right? Not quite as small as a single hut, but smaller than is really impressive. There’s no real fun in saying “hey, here’s an enormous, perfectly functioning city, now just go ahead and enjoy watching it!”

You want to start from something small and unimpressive and work your way up, so that you can enjoy seeing how far you’ve come. A sense of progress is key. Maybe the real difference is just that Minecraft upped the ante on that idea: “you want to start small? Here, start with NOTHING!”

Maybe it’s like how some people enjoy starting D&D characters at 1st level, and relish the struggle for survival, while others prefer to start at, say, 3rd or 4th when you’re not quite as likely to die poking yourself in the eye with a spoon.

And yes, power for sure. I don’t think that’s even particularly a secret. Of course we want power! We like to do cool things we can’t do in real life, like casting magic spells and bossing entire cities around and climbing tall buildings and then leaping off said buildings into haystacks and, of course, killing everyone who crosses us so we can take their stuff.

Butch:

You make us sound so sane. Ignore her, Congress.

But re: starting small, yeah. You start with an empty map. Nice.

Sense of progress is always key. That’s another hook of games overall: the sense of accomplishment. Leveling up. Loot. Trophies. All of it keys to that. I mean, what do we not like? Slog. Waves of baddies for the sake of waves of baddies. Maybe that’s it with minecraft.

Feminina:

No, slog is bad. But ‘slog’ is defined differently for different people. Farmville sounds like nonstop slog to me, but people like it (do people still like it? I don’t hear about it much lately, but presumably someone still plays it). It’s a balance, and the balance point is different depending on who you are and what you’re up for at a given point in your life.

Going back also to the ‘sense of progress,’ I wonder if Minecraft appeals to people who kind of like to just fiddle around with things and don’t have any particular goal in mind. If you’re like “I want to do something, and these chores/tasks are in my way,” that’s a different motivation from “I want to poke around and see what I can do in this game, and oh, it turns out it’s these things [chores/tasks].”

Having a sense of one’s game time as limited and precious probably contributes to this as well. “Look, I have 45 minutes to play tonight, I don’t want to spend them quarrying stone!” is perfectly legitimate, but maybe different from the mindset of someone who’s thinking “I have 20 minutes to play right now, maybe I’ll also play for 10 minutes later, possibly another 15 before bed…”

I don’t know how you manage Jr.’s game time, but maybe he lacks the (understandable) sense of ‘let’s get something DONE here’ that you have when you play (even though we don’t always get ‘something DONE’ unless by ‘something’ we mean ‘talking to people in Skyhold’…).

Minecraft seems like maybe a good bits-and-pieces game that you can play a little of whenever, and that’s a whole different kind of focus than the games I tend to like, where it’s not really even worth it to start playing unless you can actually plan to pay attention for a good while.

Butch:

I’m defining slog as work with no appreciable reward. Mrs. McP still plays a farmy thing called Hay Day, a microtransaction ridden thing. It’s evil in how it rewards EVERYTHING. You can’t look at it without little bings and stars. It is, in a weird way, the anti-slog. If slog is working for nothing, this game is rewarding you for nothing.

Regarding the sense of purpose thing, though… Hmm. This is true. I suppose I’ve always been someone who sees chores as something to get through. I like goals.

Whereas Jr., I manage his game time pretty tightly. But he is certainly a tinkerer in his own mindset. He takes shit apart just to see how it works. He’ll futz with legos for hours on end. Futzing is an end, not a means. Maybe it’s no more complex than that. I just didn’t think that the futzers were the majority.

I’m with you on preferring the games where you have to actually pay attention for a while, as opposed to the do-little-pieces ones. But then, we’re weird, aren’t we?

Feminina:

So the opposite of slog is Monty Haul? Too much reward for too little work, making the reward meaningless? (Although honestly, that sounds like a step beyond Monty Haul, even…) I can see those as two logical points on the work/reward scale.

Yeah, maybe it is as simple as “some people like to futz and others don’t.” I’m with you, I’m not much of a futzer. Gimme some goals to pursue, or I’ll become bored. We’re hooked on narrative! I mean, I’m happy to just wander around and explore for a while, but before long I’m like “I need a reason to be here. What am I DOING?” I can’t just wander and poke around aimlessly. Apparently, many people can! They’ll probably invent the internal combustion engine before I do, too. Oh well.

Butch:

The reward is meaningless, yet addictive. There’s a reason those “free to play” games mint money.

And Yup. Jr. is a futzer, for sure. So many times after a toy is in pieces: “Why are you doing that?” Blank stare, as if that question answers itself.

Feminina:

Well, tinkering is a time-honored pastime and a possible path to a rewarding career as a garage inventor, so good for him. I mean, as long as he doesn’t mind if his toys are in pieces.

Me, I always preferred my toys in their assembled state, having subscribed to the conventional idea that otherwise they were ‘broken,’ but Butch Jr. is clearly an outside the box thinker. Does he put them back together? Seriously, encourage that…I bet Bill Gates took stuff apart too, and see where it got him.

Whereas you and I will be off complaining that there wasn’t better character development in that third plot twist in DA12. Hey, know your strengths.

Butch:

Oh no. He doesn’t mind toys in pieces. He’s also pretty much allergic to building a lego set in the “correct” way. My mom will get him, say, a police station, he will build something that is very much NOT a police station, my mother will pull her hair out. Predictable.

He likes to know stuff.

Feminina:

I’m kind of with him on not building ‘correct’ Lego sets. My favorite Lego sets are the ‘enormous box of random pieces’ ones. I always felt faintly offended at the idea that the box was going to tell me what to make. “You’re not the boss of me, box! Just ’cause you have some pretty picture, you think you’re so great…”

Sadly, the enormous boxes of random pieces are hard to find.

It’s hard to argue against “liking to know stuff.” He’ll go far in the world.

Butch:

Especially hard to find boxes of random pieces now. Everything is licensed. Hobbit this, Star Wars that, even, ironically, minecraft. Yup. Jr. got Minecraft legos for his birthday. Life imitating art imitating life imitating art.

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