Chasing The Flow

I’ve been playing a game on my phone again. Shocking, I know. I’ve been very vocal in the past that I’m not really into mobile gaming, particularly games that have a shit load of ads, RMT, and lack in fulfilling gameplay. Ports of Facebook games are the worst. Virtual gambling? No thanks. Catching Pokemon? What’s a Pokemans? For the most part, mobile gaming has been very much a thing I have avoided. Not only have I not owned a flagship phone that has the power to really run most of the games out there (they seem to be more designed for top end phones or tablets), most of the gameplay mechanics just don’t appeal to me. When it comes to something like Hearthstone or a game that I can buy on steam but has an Android version, I’m not bothered because these feel like “real” games. Others feel more like they’re in the realm of the Facebook game, complete with shared post features and needing friends to do things for you to progress. That’s garbage time if you ask me, but you probably didn’t ask.

screenshot_2016-09-28-12-16-27You’ll probably remember a few years back, I was playing the game Star Wars: Tiny Death Star. It had just released, and was from the same company that made Tiny Tower and Tiny Tower: Vegas. Being a star wars fan, I downloading it on a whim, and I found that I really enjoyed the game, despite it really just being a skin for an already existing game (which I had never played to that point). I got to thinking about it the other day, because there are times at work when it’s slow so a game on my phone sounded like a no-brainer. I also go places at times and would like a distraction that isn’t Twitter or Facebook. However, being at work or with others means not having a lot of down time, but sporadic spurts where I might be able to play a game, but only for a little while. Tiny Tower is perfect for times just like this, where I might have a moment or two to stock a store, move bitizens to the floors they need to go, or do some other management of the tower. I can perform a couple of actions and then get back to whatever else I happen to be doing.

screenshot_2016-09-28-11-13-56When it comes down to it though, The game is really just mindless repetition. Moving the elevator up to the bitizen’s desired floor, stocking floors, and micro-managing the happiness of your bitizens. They love being put into their dream jobs, and they will ask you to do things for them at times. There are some additional random events that will happen and usually result in some “bux,” which seems to be often. Instead of in-game ads plastered all over, there is a nice feature where you are bribed to watch them in video form, and receive 20 bux in trade. When I am multi-tasking, this is an easy thing to click on and set my phone down. I haven’t been watching these ads, but I’ve been racking up the bux anyway. I wish more games that relied on ads and RMT went this sort of route. Compared to Tiny Death Star, this version of the game feels less buggy and easier to progress through. I do miss the Star Wars theme, but there are enough easter eggs in this title that continue to surprise me (including storm troopers).

Despite being an exercise in mindless repetition, there is a zen-like quality to the title. I was curious as to why things like this would appeal to me when I am so typically critical of simplicity and/or lack of depth. This thought pattern moved on to why I enjoy Diablo so much, or why I’ve let WoW get it’s hooks into me, despite being a repetitive quest-grind, killing ten rats hundreds of times along the way. I ran across this article, where a concept known as “flow” is explained. It seems that we are not hard wired to multi-task, and our brains can’t differentiate between a 10 o’clock meeting with our boss and being attacked by a tiger. Stress manifests the same way and we are unable to control that, particularly with our fast-paced deadline-based culture. Repetitive tasks that are found in this particular mobile game, or the titles I mentioned above actually trick your brain into focusing on the task at hand and ignoring everything else. It eliminates stress and lowers your heart rate. It’s like meditation in a way, and I’m slowly coming around to this being a good thing, rather than needing the added stress of depth. I’ve got my PvP oriented games for stress when I’m at home.


What do you guys think? Do you prefer repetition in your games, or emergent gameplay that requires deeper thought? I think there’s a time and place for both, and I’m seeing the value in both more readily as of late.