The Game is On

BY ALEXA CHERRY
For the UAS Whalesong
Post-Halloween and pre-Christmas break is perhaps the most stressful time of year for students, because it heralds the arrival of final tests and projects. And, while I do not promote blatantly ignoring your problems until they go away (because most of the time, they won’t), sometimes you do need to just stop and give yourself a little break. And I think that video games are a great way to do that! But before you skip away from this article, muttering something derisive about gamers – give me a chance. I’m not talking about Call of Duty or Halo or World of Warcraft, here. I’m simply referring to a selection of calming, distracting games that I’ve found floating around the internet that I find both distracting and relaxing. I thought I would share what I’ve found with those of you who might want something to do on your computer during your 15-minute study breaks, or in the evenings after you’ve just finished a huge assignment but still have a bundle of nervous energy you need to get rid of.

For the latter in particular, I would highly recommend the PlayStation game Journey. This is a game in which you play as a traveler with one goal: to reach the top of a mountain you can see in the distance. This game has amazing art, a fantastic soundtrack, and no dialogue, even in online mode; the only way you can communicate with your partner (of which you are only allowed one at a time) is through melodious chirps, of which you get to choose the frequency and volume. Journey has been described as an “interactive piece of art,” and that’s honestly what it is; it’s a very relaxing experience that only takes roughly 2 hours – about the length of a movie – to play, and will leave you feeling much calmer and better about yourself and the world. For reference, I got my mother to play it and she enjoyed it, and my mother only plays Mahjong and 200 variations of Solitaire. I’m assuming if you own a PlayStation system, you already play games to a degree – but if you don’t, or if it’s your friend’s PlayStation and they have the game, give it a go!

As for computer games, one that is fun (though maybe a little less in the vein of relaxing, depending on how you play it) is Agar.io. It’s an online game – and that’s literally the URL, agar.io – in which you play as a cell, trying to eat other cells and become The Biggest Cell. That’s all there is to it, and you only use the mouse and two keyboard controls, the W key and the space bar. It’s a very low-maintenance game as far as games go, and has a neat edge of competition to it that’s easy to become accustomed to if you get into it. There are also plenty of YouTube videos and tutorials out there for those seeking to reach the top of the leader board – or, if you prefer to take a calmer and perhaps more relaxing approach to your virtual cell consumption experience, I like to play on teams, so that not everyone is out to get me at once.

Back in high school, I discovered the game site Orisinal [full URL: http://www.ferryhalim.com/orisinal/%5D . This site provides a multitude of small, simple, quiet games with relaxing atmospheres. There is one sort of like Pong, where your entire purpose is to help as many deer as possible cross a gulch; another one of my favorites involves using your mouse to help a bunny bounce up into the stratosphere using bells that ding melodically when you jump on them. I think that these games are good for relaxing because they have no end goal apart from “try to get a higher score than you did last time,” and they are all really simple and easy to get a hold of. Each game is also accompanied by a lovely, peaceful song; sometimes I load them up just to listen to the music.

Now, since I mentioned them earlier, let’s not knock the most basic of default computer games. Solitaire and Mahjong are perfectly valid and reasonable games to play for relaxation and recuperation; neither of them are very complicated, they’re easy to get the hang of (though not necessarily easy to win – I will confess to a 30 percent win rate at Solitaire on my personal computer), and I think they come standard on at least every PC computer. If not, they’re easy to find online.
I’m sure a quick Google search can reveal to you still more relaxing, short games with which you can occupy your spare time and energy. Of course, you need to sleep and eat and take care of yourself, too, so don’t devote too much time to these. (Some of them can become a little addicting.) But it doesn’t hurt to treat yourself after a hard study session or test! Go on, you’ve earned it. But if hardcore gaming like Skyrim is how you prefer to relax with video games, just remember: if you die in the game, you die in real life!

Haha, nah, I’m just kidding. But seriously, eating 47 virtual cheese wheels does not supplement your mortal IRL shell. Go eat a Pop-Tart or something.

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