EarlyGame Talk: Why Do I Love Games That Feel Like Work?

Animal Crossing New Horizons
Animal Crossing often feels like work and still it's one of my favorite Games of the Year! (Image Credit: Nintendo)

Video games are such a great medium because through creating new worlds and exciting adventures, they offer fantastic escapism to the often gray everyday life. And which video games do I play the most? The ones that often feel like work! Why?! Let's take a look...

The realization that I like to play such games came to me sometime in May. Like many of you, I'm sure, I was practically locked up in my room and had what felt like endless amounts of time to play games. Here comes my first confession: my favorite video game series is the soccer simulation Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) by Konami. And not MyClub, Konami's equivalent of EA's FIFA Ultimate Team. No, I only play career mode, and I play one save game until the next PES comes out.

PES 2020
I love PES and I will never stop playing it! (Image Credit: Konami)

I was already in my tenth year of managing my favorite team in PES 2020, so thanks to all the new free time, I could fully dedicate myself to the 2030s of my digital work. Hooray! Did I ever get bored in the process? Not really. I love soccer, and I've always loved the gameplay of PES. But it's the presentation of the career mode that keeps me interested. Scouting players, negotiating contracts, reading emails and so on.... I love it!

Not only does it feel great to kick the ball into the net, but also to build and develop something over in-game years. Seeing players come and go. The work feels great because you achieve something through the time invested that fills you with passion and joy. And when my digital Johan Cruyff has a cabinet full of trophies to show for it after decades of rigorous work, that feels great too!

Despite my old, everlasting love of being a digital manager, I wanted to break up my house arrest with some new games. So what were the first two games I picked up as further lockdown fodder? That's right... Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Death Stranding! Oh dear... Not exactly the most exciting titles, right? Wrong!

Animal Crossing New Horizons Garden
Gardening in Animal Crossing can be laborious but is also really beautiful. (Image Credit: Nintendo)

The island-building game Animal Crossing: New Horizons is really beautiful and full of entertaining, cuddly characters and charm. However, the game is also really tedious! I was particularly struck by the cumbersome, elaborate nature of profit maximization when I entered the Turnip Market (a sort of stock market à la Sesame Street) to have completely overpriced bridges built. Almost everything in this game requires a lot of effort, time, and in-game money.

And while that sounds exhausting and stupid, I had an insane amount of fun with the game. On the one hand due to a similar feeling to what I already described above: the effort is reflected in the advancement of your island. It's always a great feeling in games when you spend hours building up a settlement or something similar. Plus, Animal Crossing just has a fantastic, heartwarming atmosphere! I just love to spend my time on this heartwarmingly beautiful island. Thank you, Nintendo.

Death Stranding
It's gray, exhausting and overly long.... I love it! (Image Credit: Sony/Kojima Productions)

Death Stranding, on the other hand, is really not heartwarmingly beautiful at all. In fact, it's the exact opposite. You spend most of your time walking through a depressing, post-apocalyptic world delivering packages! For many gamers, this sounded like a nightmare: Death Stranding had a split reception, and it's completely understandable that many gamers felt repulsed by this game.

But once again, I was all in. And I think I know why: not just the stupidly over-the-top and very entertaining story or the really, really well-designed gameplay (the game comes from Hideo Kojima, he really knows how to conjure up a good game), but the structure of the game. Each delivery rewards you with "likes", tapping into a similar idea to open-world games full of checklists, like Assassin's Creed and Far Cry: we as humans/gamers just love traveling through big worlds and getting points every time we do anything!

It's very primitive and the game also uses this mechanic to (sometimes more, sometimes less cleverly) make a critique. But: you can't deny that it's addictive!

Work can often be annoying and exhausting, and you actually almost always think you'd rather be doing something else at that moment. However, when work is "gamified" it can be a very effective way to immerse players in a world. People often spend a lot of time doing tedious things; but translated into fun gameplay, this can work wonderfully to give the feeling of accomplishing and building something. Or to make up for a dopamine deficit by primitively working through it. Also good.

Also, 2020 was pretty darn exhausting and you can also play these games perfectly by turning your head off and listening to podcasts on the side. Very relaxing and recommended!


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