Thursday, June 13, 2013

Guest Post: Games to Chill Out With by Beth V

Let's face it, life is stressful. If a hard day at work or an unexpected bill has your stress levels up you probably don't need a horde of zombies shrieking for your blood. There are days where killing a room full of virtual people can be extremely satisfying, but for most people that's not every day. And if it is you probably have deeper emotional issues that these games won't be able to help with. Worrying about trying to land your little guy on a moving platform or if that sound you can just barely hear is a monster waiting to kill you is pretty nerve racking. As much as I love a good shooter or action game sometimes I just want to use my gaming time to relax. If you too need a game to help unwind once in awhile then these games are for you. I'm counting them down in order of my favorites, but it was really hard for me since I have such a fondness for all of them.

Grand Theft Auto
Before you say anything; I know that this might not make any sense at first glance, but hear me out. I can't remember if it was GTA 3 or 4 or 972, but I played some version on my old roommate’s Playstation then some other version years later on my own PS2. Sure, this is a super violent game series that has you killing innocent folk, soliciting ladies of the night, and gunning or running down anyone that gets in your way. There's the added challenge of have to elude the police or anyone else who might want to put a stop to all of your evil doings. Doesn't sound very relaxing right? Maybe not, if you play by the rules. I only really liked to play with all of the cheats turned on though, and this could really apply to any sandbox game. What can be more relaxing than being invincible in such a savage land? With invincibility, unlimited ammo, and all the money you could ever want who could possibly stop you? I just enjoyed turning on the cheats, and running wild through the streets knowing that I not only had a get out of jail free card, but that I could turn on another cheat that would keep the cops from even trying to stop me. It may make it sound too easy, like I'm taking all of the challenge out of it. In a way you're completely right. For me those games weren't about winning or trying to get respect knuckles from the gangsters, they were about the freedom to absolutely anything and everything you ever wanted to do.

Roller Coaster Tycoon

Before I finally caught up with the modern world, and got an old-gen or even a next-gen console I was a pc gamer. My husband wouldn't let me install better video cards and enough ram to keep up with the requirements of pc shooters or action/adventure games so I was forced to stick with the less technically taxing fare. This was one of the best. It's one of those fun strategy games that lets you play god, and as a control freak I get into that sort of thing. You are a theme park owner, and your job is to build and maintain a thriving business. To do so you have to have some bitchin' rides, but you also have to hire a staff, set up foot paths, and keep people entertained while they're standing in your long lines. The rides range from boring little bumper cars to full on high-octane super coasters, and you have the option of designing them yourself. The intensity of your roller coaster has to be tempered with what your guests can handle though, and I got kind of a devilish little thrill out of sending a poorly designed (intentionally or not) roller coaster out for it's first run, and watching as a car flies off the track and explodes in slow motion as the passengers flail and scream. Yep, I'm an evil god. Don't even get me started on the park my husband built that was filled hundreds of “entertainers” dancing around in panda suits. No bathrooms, no rides, no exits. Just pandas. Lots and lots of pandas. He called it Pandaland, and if there is a hell I'm going there when I die.


All incarnations of this game are good. I like three the best because it's the one I got for free, and hence, played the most. There's even a scaled down console version that I picked up on the cheap from the Xbox marketplace. It doesn't have nearly the depth, but it's still pretty good if your couch is more comfortable to chill on than your office chair. This isn't quite a god game, but you still get to control the destiny of an entire civilization so it's as god like as any of us are ever going to get. You get to choose what your scientists study, who you do business with, and even whether or not you want to destroy the entire world. Although there are several ways to win a game nuking your neighbors isn't highly recommended. The other cultures don't like radioactive fallout, and an international trade embargo isn't going to make your little people very happy. Keeping your minions happy makes for better workers, and also impresses nearby cities who might decide that your culture is so awesome that they want to join you. This is the sneaky and subversive way that I prefer to win. It's far easier than building armies, and keeping up with wars. There's even a ranking system that shows where you fall in the list of real life leaders at the end of each game. I almost always fall somewhere in between Winston Churchill and Alexander the Great. Not sure if that means I'm any good? Me neither, but it's still a fun game.

Animal Crossing
This list is starting to make it sound like I only play old games on outdated systems, but I just don't own many current games that don't cause me some sort of anxiety. Even the Lego games get my dander up with all that damn jumping. Animal Crossing came out for the Gamecube originally, but it has since moved on to newer Nintendo hardware. I do still own a Gamecube and thinking about it makes me kind of want to bust it out again for this game (except that I don't know how in the world to hook it up anymore). This is a super cute game where your mission is to...hang out with talking animals wearing pants or something. I'm pretty sure that you don't beat this game. You just design clothes for your avatar, go fishing, and just generally kind of bum around. And then if you catch a big fish or catch a special bug or collect enough items you get trophies you can use to decorate your house. Oh, and then, you can dig up money to use at the town store that's run by a raccoon. He sells fancy furniture, and other various goods. I'm doing a bad job making it sound fun, but I bet it at least it doesn't sound stressful right?

Pokemon Snap
It's one of the strangest games I've ever played. This, Ocarina of Time, and Goldeneye are the reason I still keep my old N64. You play as a Pokemon photographer, and you are tasked with, you guessed it, taking photographs of Pokemon for Professor Oak to study, or post online, or something. He probably later had his computer seized by the feds for pictures of underage Pokemon. Anyhoo, you're sent to Pokemon Island to ride a rail through different environments and take pictures of the wild Pokemon you see there. That's it. No running around, no weapons, just you going for a ride with a camera. How relaxing is that? The answer is, very. There is a point to all of this though because you are scored on various aspects of your pics. That Professor Oak is a tough judge too. You have to get the little monsters framed up properly, facing the right direction, and hopefully doing something cool. If you don't get the shot you want you can always go back and try a course again. I never did get a very good shot of Pikachu riding a surfboard...

Katamari Damacy

Just typing the title has the main title song going through my head. Not only is this a great game, but it has a truly fantastic soundtrack. The reasons this game works so well, and is still one of the best games ever is that it makes absolutely no sense at all. That kind of describes a lot about this game actually. It's ridiculous, and silly, and completely addictive. You're the Prince of All Cosmos, and your father the King (who talks like a scratching record and is clearly on drugs) needs you to collect things from earth. Why you have to roll these things up into a big sticky ball is never explained, nor should it be. The fun of this game is how your little ball grows from only being big enough to pick up thumbtacks to finally being big enough to scoop up people. When you snag a person they scream and flail hilariously. I think on one level you could even pick up a Loch Ness monster. Now that's some crazy good fun that could only have come from Japan.

The Sims
I know you've heard of it even if you haven't played it. I started with the first game, and went through 3 or 4 expansions before realizing that for all of the money I was sinking into add-ons I could have bought 2 brand new and completely different games. I don't even like to think about how much of my time and energy went into playing this damn game. To hell with living your own life, the virtual life of my Sims was far more entertaining. A great job, an active social life, even a robot butler were all there waiting. Sure my social life would have been far more active if I hadn't been playing this game, but you know what they say about hindsight. One of the most fun aspects of playing someone's own personal Jesus was the ability to torture or kill them. Sims aren't bright enough to eat or go to the bathroom without your guidance. Let them go long enough, and they'll eventually die from neglect. But you can just create new ones so who cares? I was a fairly mean god, but what were they going to do about it? If they got upset I could just put them in a room, take away the door, and wait for them to die. I had always hoped that such actions would help keep the other Sims in line, but they just never learned. I guess that's why I kept coming back though. Unfortunately, they were never able to bring a version to consoles that matched the depth and control of the PC version. I have it on my phone, and if you happen to leave your peeps alone for too long their meters just reset. Where's the misery, and death? How can you be a life simulator without them? Oh wait. Simulating misery and death is why I play shooters. Never mind. I'll let the relaxing game world get back to it's puppies and sunshine now. I'm gonna go blow some shit up.