Mutazione’s gardening reminds me that when video games give me order, I want chaos

December 14, 2019
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A lot of situations in games seem chaotic at first – the disorder of large-scale battles, wave upon wave of enemies raining down onto you until their number and actions become indiscernible, or the rapid alteration between dodging projectile fire and melee attacks in a run and gun game. But while combat can be chaotic, you win by creating order, finally achieving flow by finding patterns and thus reaching the magical point where a game’s difficulty and your skill level meet.

Flow through order, or rather neatness however, is less about muscle memory and skill level, and more about those times you can’t help but want everything to be organised. City builders are likely the neatest games by design, encouraging you to build your residential area here and the cultural hotspots nearby, a safe distance from the health hazards of an industrial area but not too far to make it difficult for people to get to work. In Frostpunk, everything you build forms a ring around the generator, the pulsating heart of your city. Even home design in Animal Crossing spinoffs keeps you from veering off into chaos by making you follow someone else’s suggestions.

I’ve seen pictures of giant Stardew Valley farms, fruit trees in elegant rows and vegetables forming large acres. Minecraft buildings often feature whole sheds full of tools and raw materials, neatly sorted. It makes sense to be orderly in these games, as it does in most others, but I’ve never been able to do it myself.

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