Biggest video game trend of 2021 talks about a common psychological quirk


Ah, the weekend.

It’s time to clean up my wardrobe, plant an award-winning flower bed, and revamp all the furniture in my house. Except not really. The dishes pile up in my sink and my laundry covers the floor while I do my chores from my bed – they’re all virtual.

Anyone who was at least a little online last March was swept away by the Animal crossing: new horizons release hype, a game that is all about running, cleaning up an entire town, getting a mortgage, and building various infrastructure. Gambling has become a way of living a normal life in a microcosm and wearing cute little outfits while doing so. With the November 5 update ushering in the colder, darker days of winter, I imagine a lot of people will be heading straight back to the sunnier climates of their own custom tiny desert island, or the comforts of similar games like Valley of stars.

A fall farm in Stardew Valley.Ritter fish

It’s easy to imagine why rich, exciting and engaging games like Breath of the wild Where Skyrim could trip our brains over time on the same neurotransmitters produced when we eat or have sex. So why are games involving tasks like gardening or DIY – tasks we find so intensely boring in real life that we put them off for weeks on end – are flying off the shelves as much as games that let you shoot at? zombies all day?

“They offer a immediate feeling of accomplishment with very little effort.

“Almost all games are created to tap into the pleasure centers of our brain by simulating a sense of empowerment, feelings of power and control, or a sense of escape from the real world,” says Drew Lightfoot, professional counselor. certified and clinical director. at Thriveworks Philadelphia and Professor of Health Research at LaSalle University.

“Our brains are very bad at distinguishing between imagining a situation and actually experiencing it, both positively and negatively. Task-based video games work pretty much the same. They offer us a chance to imagine what a life would be like if all of our to-do lists were crossed out, and they offer an immediate sense of accomplishment with very little effort. Those same tasks in real life are actually even more fun when completed, but they take a lot more effort to complete.

One of the rooms in which you will organize Unpacking.Witch bundle

Chore games have been around for years: Cooking mom, Nintendogs, and Farmville filled my childhood with menial digital tasks. However, the recent increase in popularity of these games is notable, with Animal crossing: new horizons marking the third video game sales in 2020 and selling three times as many copies as its predecessor New leaf. Cult independent films like Forageous, unpacking, overcooked! and Wilmot’s warehouse also took advantage of the trend.

Witek Radomski, co-founder and CTO of Enjin, a leading blockchain game development platform, explains why the past two years have provided the perfect breeding ground for chore-based games to explode in popularity.

“Play video games in full consciousness and intentionally for an hour a day can have positive psychological benefits.

“Your brain rewards you with dopamine when you successfully complete a task, but in modern jobs those dopamine hits are often rare, forcing you to complete dozens of smaller tasks before getting feedback or recognition.” social, “he says.” A lot of jobs just aren’t very rewarding unless you’re very good at self-motivation. Games often focus on smaller, achievable tasks. Task-based games simpler ones hit the right mental buttons for the majority of people and keep them engaged and rewarded for long periods of time.

Decorate the walls of your bear bungalow in the new Happy home paradise extension for Animal crossing: new horizons is much less stressful than real DIY.Nintendo

People are more dissatisfied with their jobs than ever, with more than 4 million Americans quitting their jobs in August 2021 alone. Games, especially those with small and achievable tasks, provide respite from the drudgery. work not rented. Yet, in classic baby boomer fashion, parents around the world fear that their children are wasting their hours on virtual hijackings rather than focusing on mowing the lawn. Nonetheless, regardless of their age, countless gamers derive a tremendous amount of comfort and enjoyment from chore-based games, especially during strenuous times.

“The games often focus on the little ones, feasible Tasks.”

I spoke to Mattea Bubalo, a 27 year old digital journalist who recorded more than 600 hours of play Animal crossing: new horizons since its release last March, and still plays every day.

“What I think the game does really well is instill a sense of ownership in your little world. There’s a lot of positive reinforcement and encouragement, like cute villagers who are happy, so after a stressful day, it can just help you relax, “she explains.” Daily chores help you get those materials that create a really coveted item that can personalize your surroundings. And because they’re uniquely cute and unique, you feel like you’ve made the area with your own hard work.

Assembling a meal is a team sport in Overcooked 2.Team17 / Ghost Town Games

Lightfoot agrees that these games can have a positive effect on mental and emotional health.

“Playing video games to feel a sense of accomplishment or to escape the outside world for a while can be a fantastic adaptability. In fact, research tells us that mindfully and intentionally playing video games for an hour a day can have positive psychological benefits, ”says Lightfoot. “Even playing for several hours a day doesn’t necessarily mean negative effects or problems, but problems only arise when we neglect the necessities of our own life to absorb ourselves into an imaginary setting.”

So while the rebirth of chore-based games is a symptom of the new world we live in, it’s not necessarily a smart one. We all need ways to cope and let off steam, especially nowadays. For many, the perfect way to feel in control and accomplished is to plant a beautiful digital tulip garden that will never fade. The kids (and the rest of us) are doing well, really. You should probably go do your dishes soon, though.

Year in the games 2021 is a Reverse celebration of interactive entertainment’s most unforgettable adventures, stories, innovations and characters.


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