I’m alone in it A dark room in front of my screen. Download the game. I am overwhelmed with purple, red, and shades of orange and pink, and they call me that. Start game. Yes please. Take me to my friends, whom I’ve been missing all day in front of the gray and blue of my workstation. They greet me with smiles, waves and hugs.
Pause the game. Call to tell my child that I love them. Email a friend. Tell her I miss her. I hope you are in good health. I love her. I get back into the game and spend hours playing with interactivity. Even if you dare hop on Reddit, check out the strangers’ boats, gear, towns, resource stocks, and new hats. I comment. I support. I participate and participate in a great community.
Relaxing management games are more than just fun, more than just an escape. They can be lifeboats in difficult times like a pandemic, like hundreds of days of protest, rebellion, division, death-on-death, and unfinished traumas that will echo for years. Right down to the mechanics of the game, they give us a respite from the cruelty, from the combat. They allow us to wrap our arms around the imaginary embodiments of our friends, the people we’ve let go of our whole lives, the people we’ve let our whole lives pass us by, and anyone else we miss, crave, and want to hold back.
All while setting friendly reminders to eat, drink and sleep and give yourself a treat just because. Ergonomic management games writer and fan Nia Simone McLeod sees these games as the only thing she needs to find her place in the world again. “Relaxing management games give me peace. Whatever worries I have been feeling throughout the day, they are taken away.” I linked this largely to the management mechanics of these games: “I focus on the simple task that the game puts before me, whether it’s collecting shells, farming, or talking to my neighbours.”
“Mechanics have meaning, value, and tone,” says Whitney “Strix” Beltran, Narrative Director at Hidden Path Entertainment. In addition to being a director of the upcoming Hidden Path game inspired by Dungeons and Dragons, Strix often highlights what it takes to create a game that connects with the player, bringing feelings that extend beyond the game and touch the player so deeply that the game and playthrough stays with them even after they’re done. “What feelings do I want the player to feel at the end of the game? What should stay? In what way do I want to move them or perhaps change them from the experience? I put a lot of effort into making it clear what it would look like, and turn it into a vision. It is important that you understand the mechanics of Your gameplay is from moment to moment. Ideally, there is a synergistic energy as the mechanics and combo amplify each other.”
amplification It is that core component that allows the game to become for the player more than a simple escape. It’s what allows games to get into a player’s head, slowly changing how they see the world and themselves within it. MacLeod has similar feelings: “The little things, like catching a rare fish or completing a neighbor’s task, bring me so much joy. When I play, I remember that I have to do the same thing throughout life: celebrate every win.”
For me, the game that has made me feel all the emotions over the past year and currently has been Spiritfarer From Lotus Games. Shipped as a relaxed management game about death, I got into it preparing to destroy my heart and my emotions. What I didn’t expect was how the way I saw the world, interacted with my friends and family, and reflected on myself had changed. I managed to catch up with the game’s creative director, Nicolas Geran, and artistic director Joe Gaultier. Separately and together we discussed ergonomic management games, how they are designed, and their impact on the player.