Video games don’t always need to be explosions and highspeed chases. Sometimes things need to be broken up with something slow and intentional. Sometimes I just want to pet a dog or pick the carrots I planted a week ago. These are 10 times people showed just how much they love the mundane parts of life.
10. Road Tripping – Elite Dangerous
One of my favorite feelings in the world is driving down a straight road listening to a podcast or audiobook while munchin’ on some snacks. The last thing I expected was to have a video game capture this feeling while also not costing me tons in gas! That game is Elite Dangerous. Elite Dangerous is a Space Exploration game where you are tasked in an online community with various missions. The game does sport some radical space dog-fights and interstellar trading, but these things seem so much more exciting and earned due to an overwhelming feeling of space. The galaxy is a big place and getting from one point to another isn’t quick, so sit back and relax with some snacks and entertainment.
9. Walking and Reading – Gone Home
The tongue in cheek named genre “walking simulator” has been pretty love or hate with gamers, but few can argue which game truly shot it into the mainstream. Before lovingly crafted experiences like Firewatch, and after the cult hit Dear Esther, there was Gone Home. Gone Home centered around coming home to your family’s house after being away for some time. No one is around and you have never been in this house, so you do the thing that comes most natural: Poke around to find out what happened, of course. What results is an emotional and gripping story that evolves as you unfold each turn by discovering something new, with everything feeling slightly wrong as you snoop in an empty house. While you are only walking around and reading this was a potent story stripped down to its essentials and I am not alone in loving it.
8. High School Drama – Life is Strange
Life is Strange is an adventure game that centers around the introvert protagonist as they navigate the difficulties of high school. Yes, sure there is a time travel mechanic in Life is Strange, but that’s not why I believe people love this game. They love this game because they get to experience being an Oregonian hipster in high school rather than being the kid who farted in religion class when asking a question about Mormonism (everyone experienced that right [RIGHT?!]?). But truth be told, while there are some intense moments of spectacle, the small human moments of vulnerability and relationships makes this high school-drama-game teem with heart.
7. Reading Paperwork – Papers Please
It’s hard to believe but one of the most stressful and intense gaming experiences for me in the past few years centered around reading some paperwork and then answering a single yes or no question. I’m talking about the breakthrough indie hit that was Papers Please, of course; the border control officer simulator, where you are tasked with checking people before crossing a contentious border, all while trying to feed your family and stay warm. While this was stressful and thought-provoking, it doesn’t take away from the fact the gameplay loop boils down to looking over paperwork and checking for discrepancies. This is the game that won numerous game-of-the-year awards and had critical success to go along… a fricken paper reader… Damn, I like this game.
6. Not Finding Your Father’s Killer – Shenmue
Shenmue, one of the first games to take large strides towards what we think of as open-world games today, also pioneered the future of mundane gameplay! While nearly a swearword to the gaming world now, QTE’s (quick time events), those are those pesky button-prompt scenes in games, were introduced in this cult hit and it was a revelation. Fight scenes were reduced to waiting to press a button and watching them fight. But these prompts also lead to new immersion into every day, like being able to interact with household objects through button prompts. Shenmue also distracted the player with a plethora of meaningless minigames and distractions, creating the perfect mundane sandbox to distract you from its dramatic revenge story.
5. Photography – Pokémon Snap
Nintendo back in the day knew that they had hit gold moneybags with anything Pokémon-related. This lead to bonkers things like Pokémon educational games, fishing games, and games where you essentially just hang out with Pikachu watching TV. This line of thinking brought us to Pokémon Snap, the safari-like on-rails shooter (don’t worry, it’s just a camera) where you’re tasked with taking the best pictures of Pokemon along the way. While this strange idea didn’t sell very well the first time around, this charming concept eventually attracted quite the following for its low-key antics. There just isn’t another game out there where you can practice getting that perfectly timed shot while also getting that good Pokémon fill.
4. Farming – Stardew Valley
While not being the one that invented the wheel on this one (props to the beloved Harvest Moon) Stardew Valley brought farming back to gaming in a big way. The one-man developer Cuddlefish saw that there was a major gap in the gaming industry in the form of the Harvest Moon-like farming sims of yesteryear and decided to do something about it. The result is the indie standout Stardew Valley that finally brought people back into the simple shoes of a farmer looking for a peaceful life. Cuddlefish obviously wasn’t alone as it quickly sold like gangbusters and have a committed fanbase. What is more mundane than a peaceful life you ask. Nothing. Nothing at all. Welcome home.
3. Architecture Design – Minecraft
Minecraft is the definition of a video game sandbox, with the ability to fight and survive, farm, create structures, wire electricity, and so so much more. This complete freedom lead to a phenomenon rare in gaming — this indie game swept the world with its unique (at the time) survival/design hook. I could have written about anything within this absolute revolution of a game that is Minecraft, so I went with my personal favorite: Architecture design. Nothing was more satisfying than making my first little mole hole of a house and then earning each mineral it took to finally evolve it into my summer beach house with flowing lava underneath the glass floors. Slow and methodical, self-motivation is the name of the game here, providing the player with plenty to sink their teeth into, while they can relax and listen to the minimalist classical soundtrack.
2. Horse Balls (and everything else) – Red Dead Redemption 2
It seems just like yesterday the internet was blowing up over virtual animal testicles. For those of you who don’t know, Rockstar Games revealed that in their upcoming 2018 release Red Dead Redemption 2, that a horse’s gonads would grow or shrink in real-time according to the weather (something that actually happens for those of you curious). As absolutely bonkers as this internet attention seemed, it was actually pretty accurate at capturing the level of realism and attention to detail to things that probably didn’t deserve it (balls) as well as the reaction gamers couldn’t help but have. Red Dead Redemption 2 ended up being a much more slow, deliberate, and detailed game than anyone could have imagined – and for once, that slowness and realism was an absolute revelation to the gaming industry. There isn’t much like being able to play dress up, pack a warm outfit, and go snow hunting while your horse’s low hangers become tiny – weirdly therapeutic.
1. EVERYTHING – The Sims
The phenomenon of the Sims series is a strange one, yet one that I still fell into as it whirlpools around my childhood. This game acts as a life/god/designer simulator where you build a house, create a family, and semi-control their lives as they develop personalities and relationships. I remember playing this game so much as a kid that I used to think in strange decision bubbles before I decided to do regular things like taking a shower. This mundane haven attracted everyone from little girls wanting to play house to absolute sociopaths who want to delete all the ways out of a pool and let their sims suffer. When it comes to having fun while playing a game that essentially just simulates a relatively normal time, it is hard to beat the king – which makes the Sims series my true number one for excitement for the mundane.
Games don’t always have to be big, loud, high budget experiences. Just like in the film industry, sometimes the quiet indie releases can truly be favorites too. Gaming and gamers alike sometimes need to take a step back and just breath for a bit. These games help do exactly that.
Let’s make some more boring games!