Gaming to Relax

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Author: Asandra al'Terra

TVT 11 2015 header GtoR.jpg

It’s been a hell of a month: exams, injury, marathon training, work, and a slew of other things.

Towards the end of October, I finally found myself gaming again, if only to turn off my brain. I played a bit of Witcher 3 (which was relaxing until I got chased by a monster a dozen levels higher than I) and a few hours of Civilization – and a whole bunch of Two Dots, an idiotic app that I absolutely love and I can’t seem to stop playing.

After a few weeks spent talking about scariest games, then, it seems apt to follow Spooky October up with Relaxing November: the calm before the storm of final exams, holidays, and – in this hemisphere – the onset of winter.

I reached out to our gaming community and asked them what they play to relax and why. Any game was welcome – video, board, phone; multi or single-player; anything at all, as long as the verb accompanying it is “play.”

Dee Gaidin has taken the answer to a fully retro level: he plays Deluxe Galaga on the Amiga 1200. From my world-renowned google-fu, Deluxe Galaga seems to be similar to Space Invaders: a game that’s simple to learn and play, and requires little brain power but good reflexes. It’s a good “zoning-out” game – and if reflexes are too much to ask for, then games like Bejeweled (a preferred "stupid puzzle game" for Cahalan Sothron) or Two Dots (my preference) could easily lie in the same area.

Jeryn Gaidin went simultaneously more and less retro than Dee Gaidin, answering Solitaire – which, as a reminder to our younger crowd, was originally played with actual cards instead of on the computer. :P Jeryn Gaidin also suggested HearthStone, an online collectible card game set in the World of Warcraft universe – that is, it’s relaxing until his “cheeky” opponent “gets a top deck and [Jeryn] loses.”

Repetition is also helpful to relaxation. For Marrow Gaidin, grinding – the act of leveling up your video game characters in RPGs – is particularly helpful. In a similar vein, Dnae Ila likes Dynasty Warriors, especially after the game is complete – then, the game becomes “mindless hack’n’slash.” Cahalan notes that when she’s grouchy, blowing things up is particularly helpful – for example, in World of Warcraft with her warlock.

For others, relaxing games tend to have a “sandbox” kind of feeling: for Dnae, it’s building in Minecraft; for Enelya Sedai, it’s farming in the Shire in Lord of the Rings Online. Zanus Athara enjoys Garry’s Mod, specifically the minigames server – “the rounds are quick and mostly always different, so there is always something fresh to look at and be entertained by, which helps me relax.” He also enjoys the social aspect of the game: “you can find some really cool people on the servers, and can just talk for ages about a certain fun topic and not worry about anything.”

Games like Civilization and Age of Empires were mentioned several times. Although they’re not fully ‘open,’ they’re highly customizable and you can set your own pace. Zandera Sommers says of Civilization: “in the lower difficulty setting, it's mildly challenging but slow enough pace for you not to feel too stressed about your competition with the AI.” For Jeryn Gaidin, Age of Empires is particularly relaxing when he plays in Wonder Race mode. “I'm always slowest to all the new ages except the last one,” he says, “But I'm always first completing the Wonder.”

So, what’s the verdict? Well – there are as many ways to relax as there are people! For more suggestions or to add your preference, feel free to head over to the discussion thread or comment here.

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