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Thread: Incremental Games; or, Gaming as Anesthesia

  1. #1
    Member
    Registered: Aug 2002
    Location: Maupertuis

    Incremental Games; or, Gaming as Anesthesia

    So, it turns out that there's an entire genre of video games that's good at blunting emotional pain and mental exhaustion. They're called incremental games, and if (like me) your personality tends towards the addictive, they are dangerous. But hell, I want to talk about them and hear opinions about them, so here I am.

    The chief distinction among incremental games is between Games Wot End and... the others. With one exception, we will not discuss the others.

    Cookie Clicker

    Now that everyone without a natural 18 for their Willpower stat knows what it's like to have an idle game snag you, it is hard to fathom the appeal of this one. Here's my three-part explanation. First, it has a good sense of humor. Second, partway through, Shit Gets Real. Third, before this game, the Optimal Progression Curve heretofore discovered by the games industry was cubic; but then, Cookie Clicker, in its manic generosity, proved that exponential progress is more addictive.

    Candy Box

    If you're lucky, you can say, "I was there for it." For instance, I was there for Super Metroid. I was there for Dark Souls. I felt sad that I could not be there for Ultima VII, genuinely sad. Only some games can produce such moments. Somehow this, an exercise in teaching oneself Javascript from scratch, was one of those games. There may come a day when people can no longer go back and feel what the original players of Candy Box felt, just like it is impossible for a modern reader to read Pollyanna and appreciate its virtue. The creator made one sequel, but no more, and we wondered why.

    A Dark Room

    I felt the temptation to create an incremental game. So, I learned myself some Javascript, and wondered what codebase would be best to look to for inspiration. I chose A Dark Room, correctly. I still have not discovered another game whose code is as beautiful: compact, elegant, well-structured, cleanly formatted, powerful, and capable of producing a massive world in a tiny footprint. The game is as good as its code, and like Candy Box, I have the fortune to be able to say I was there for it.

    Mine Defense

    Thoreau wrote, "The heroic books, even if printed in the character of our mother tongue, will always be in a language dead to degenerate times; and we must laboriously seek the meaning of each word and line, conjecturing a larger sense than common use permits out of what wisdom and valor and generosity we have." Now, I am not going to claim that Mine Defense is one of The Heroic Texts. And yet, when I think back on it, I see wisdom, valor and generosity in it. All those wonderful and whimsical things happen -- oh, there are so many unfolding mechanics, it is wonderful -- and then, at the very end, the game performs one single, yet apparently immensely difficult, good deed. It does not ask you to play it again.

    Crank

    If nothing else works, you can try turning the crank.
    Last edited by Anarchic Fox; 3rd Mar 2020 at 18:49.

  2. #2
    Moderator
    Registered: Jan 2003
    Location: NeoTokyo
    I play games ritualistically, which is related but maybe a bit different than anesthetic. Ritual gaming is about getting into a flow for its own sake. The kinds of games that do that for me tend to be 4X or open world sandboxes (Civ, Paradox grand-strats, elite-likes/X-series, rogue-likes, Minecraft, Axis & Allies-likes), or strategy games in that vein (card games, puzzle games, Zachtronic-likes), flow-centric sports games (snowboarding, skateboarding, biking, open-world driving in GTA5 or Dakar18, etc, etc.), some arcade games that have a flow to them, like platformers, but there's a procedural infinite platformer, Himno, that's good for this, Noita too.

    In my case, traditional casual games, like Candy Crush or Bejeweled, et al, don't really get me into the flow. I think it's because they're ... not really tapping into anything deeper. It's a kind of flow, but you're not "making progress" to anything maybe. With a 4X or open world game, you're in the flow of taming this world. With flow-sports like snowboarding, it's about capturing the perfect run; you're in the moment. A casual game is I think a little too constructed to give me an artificial manufactured "run" that I can't really take ownership like I can with a good snowboard run, or cracking a puzzle with a unique solution.

  3. #3
    Member
    Registered: Aug 2002
    Location: Maupertuis
    Ritual gaming is about getting into a flow for its own sake.
    Makes sense, though it's definitely not my thing. When I play 4X games, I'm trying to find meaning in the algorithms. With sports games I can't overlook the necessary glorification of, well, real sports, with all the evil surrounding them. "Arcade games" doesn't even feel like a real category anymore, to me. I guess the problem is that flow is so rare, for me, that I need to save it for important work like this.

    When I play Zachlikes, though, it's for the joy of learning, to such an extent that the goddamn "here's how all the computer scientists and engineers did, and here's how you did in comparison" almost ruins them for me. One of my finest gaming accomplishments is beating every level but one of TIS-100 without outside aid, despite being a crap programmer. Fun tidbit, want to beat the factorization level quickly? Hardcode the answers, like a degenerate.

    Quote Originally Posted by demagogue View Post
    In my case, traditional casual games, like Candy Crush or Bejeweled, et al, don't really get me into the flow... I think it's because they're ... not really tapping into anything deeper. It's a kind of flow, but you're not "making progress" to anything maybe. With a 4X or open world game, you're in the flow of taming this world. With flow-sports like snowboarding, it's about capturing the perfect run; you're in the moment. A casual game is I think a little too constructed to give me an artificial manufactured "run" that I can't really take ownership like I can with a good snowboard run, or cracking a puzzle with a unique solution.
    Yeah. Fuck Candy Crush. *ahem* The one good thing I can say about idle games (as opposed to incremental games, a genuinely important distinction) is that they teach people how to resist compulsion. As for "casual games," as far as I can tell that's just a synonym for "mobile games."

  4. #4
    Moderator
    Registered: Jan 2003
    Location: NeoTokyo
    Sports games isn't the right term maybe. Driving or snowboarding aimlessly isn't really a sport per se. You're not trying to beat anybody at anything, just in the flow of the movement. It would upset people that take sports "seriously". In that vein though, I usually just play the ones where you can turn all the popups and commentary off, so you're just aimlessly moving around without the game communicating anything probably for the similar reason you're thinking about.

  5. #5
    Member
    Registered: Aug 2002
    Location: Maupertuis
    Sounds nice, now that I take the time to imagine it. That's what I would use Picross or the like for, although the "taking a hot bath" image from the other thread fits better.

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