Let’s get past the  obvious – there are many things I do wrong in life. I’m talking about gaming in particular. I play a number of video games, partially to de-stress but mostly because I’ve learned to enjoy the agony of defeat. Every once in awhile I think “I’ll create a Twitch account and call myself the worlds’ worst gamer”. Then I get a bit of sleep and drop the idea. I’m impatient when it comes to playing games.  I’ll play for awhile, watch whatever I’m doing explode into chaos and wander off to read or play around with my stamp collection. But … I think I’ve figured out how to play (some) sim games successfully. 

I play mostly sim and risk style games. I’m not a big fan of shoot ’em play. They are mind numbingly boring to me. Plus I get motion sick when the screen swivels around. Nothing kills the joy of online combat like barfing into the toilet after 15 min.  I get wickedly motion sick when I play any of those games. I stick mostly to simulation games where I can build and plan out civilizations or small scale cities. That doesn’t mean I’m good at it, just slightly less crappy. I do like the odd dungeon and dragons game, if the screen isn’t first person.  I talked to someone who also gets motion sick while playing first person games. He said he pops a gravel or two before playing. Great, instead of vomiting onto the keyboard I can fall off my chair when I fall asleep.

I’ve been idly analysing why I go so monumentally wrong and broke it down into two categories:

  • planning | strategy
  • moral qualms

Planning | Strategy

The major problem I run into is failing to plan for expansion.  I start building without thinking about sustainability.  I get all excited about achieving new levels and forget to plan for slumps or disasters. Here’s a screenshot of a colony that soon went to Hell in a handbasket:

Screen capture of a game called Planetbase

Screenshot from Planetbase

It looked pretty good at this stage – 19 colonists, lots of potential Wee Hee! Shortly after this screen shot, every settler was dead. Lack of food and an asteroid strike did them in. It’s hard watching everyone curl up into balls and die. I felt … well .. gutted. This is a great little game but damnit, I need to plan better.  

With that lesson in mind, I went slower. Much slower. And here we are:

Screen capture of a successful colony in Planetbase

A thriving colony in Planetbase

It took forever to get to 100 citizens! But there they are, thriving and surviving. Shortly after this screenshot, the colony suffered a direct hit but because I spread the power and food around, the colony didn’t suffer from a catastrophic die off. 

I took the lessons learned to another game I’m fanatically devoted to Transport Fever. I won’t confess to how many human hours have killed playing Transport Fever, but needless to say, it’s a shameful amount. If you love logistics and long term planning, this is the game to have.  I’m currently working on a large map and trying to establish a major passenger empire. It’s taken a lot of plotting and sketching tracks and bus routes to get here, but I’m actually making money .. lots and lots of money. 

Screen capture from the game Transport Fever showing a Canadian National rail car

Screen capture from Transport Fever

The addons developed by fans are inspiring. My little empire has Go trains and buses, Canadian National and Canadian Pacific rail cars and more.  It’s become a bit sprawling and I’m struggling to maintain a semblance of control. To help, I’ve created spreadsheets to track cargo, passenger loads etc. Did I tell you I am a master of work avoidance?  Transport Fever is the single most effective tool in my procrastination arsenal. So far I haven’t managed to create pandemonium in the game and it’s progressing nicely.    

Moral Qualms

This brings me to the another reason for failure. I tend to wrap myself up in all sorts of moral qualms. I’ll be playing a game and get tied into knots about whether I have the right do something like invade a country, spy and steal or kick people off their lands. Some games stir up serious questions about the human condition which in turn lead me into long, internal discussions about history, right and wrong and how we view the world.  Many games have been abandoned when I wandered off to check out a bit of history, quotes or political theory used in a game. I’m ever hopeful though and restart a game thinking I’ll stick to this little corner of the world and develop my own city states in peaceful isolation. It’s shocking how quickly a country can be conquered by it’s irritating neighbours. Or worse, suffer the ignominy of being booted from your own nation because you pissed a local faction off too much. 

Yes, I know, I know it’s just a game but that doesn’t halt the moral dilemmas. I actually stopped playing Sid Meier’s Colonization because I kept thinking “but that tribe was their first” and inevitably ended up with the quick collapse of any budding empire. I did the same thing over a dungeon’s style game called Titan’s Quest. Great game, until I got to the Tiger people and started feeling terrible for randomly killing them because they were in the way.  I suffered repeated die offs as a result. What games need is a way of negotiating with various groups to achieve goals instead of the “kill ’em all” method.  

For the time being I’m sticking with Transport Fever and Planetfall – no moral qualms to wrestle with there. Just lots of micro management issues to warm my little OCD heart. 

** I’m thinking of recording parts of the Transport Fever builds and posting them to YouTube with commentary. It’ll all depend on my poor old laptop. If it can deal with the strain, I should have the first done next month. I’ll let you know if the lags prevent the recordings. 

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