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Scratching an Itch You Never Knew was There

June 30, 2010

Have you ever really enjoyed a game without being able to describe why beyond saying, “It’s just so addictive?” Personally I can say this about a number of games, but have some insight into this problem after listening to one of my favorite podcast, and the most infrequent, A Life Well Wasted. In the most recent episode, host Robert Ashley spoke to the man that owns the rights to Tetris. It was a great interview, but what struck me most was a small comment about why Tetris was successful. Something you’re probably not expecting but might play a bigger role in games then you’d think.

“It scratches some itch we didn’t know we had, and gives us an outlet for our urges to clean and organize. Without, you know, actually having to clean or organize, which takes work.” Robert Ashley, A Life Well Wasted

I’m not saying that this is why everyone plays Tetris. Maybe your mom was killed by a brick wall that fell over, and erasing rows and rows of bricks helps you cope with your grief. But that’s not the case for me; Tetris speaks to me for the cleaning and organizing, not for avenging my deceased mother. But after realizing this I began to look for similar games I play that scratch the same itch.

The most obvious one is a PC game I’ve recently started playing again, Dawn of Discovery. If you don’t know, Dawn of Discovery is a strategy game where really all you’re doing is building a city, managing resources and making sure your population is happy and growing. And that’s really it, there is only a small amount of fighting, and the little that is there is centered on protecting your trade routes. But this game is a perfect example of playing a game that is really just about organization, hitting that perfect equilibrium of resource production, expansion and trade. A whole game based on organizing and managing.

But it doesn’t have to be the basis of an entire game. If you didn’t know, I’m a recovering World of Warcraft player. A game that doesn’t have much to do with being neat and tidy, unless you’re me, I guess.  So in WOW each player has a bank to throw all their stuff into, supplies for crafting, weapons they would eventually like to use, a funny item, anything they might want they could just throw in there. Or you could be like me and put everything in a specific spot. This is the spot for wool cloth, and here is the spot for silk cloth. Here is the spot for potions, etc.

Some players that clearly have the same organization needs as me. I feel like we could of been friends.

I took it so seriously in fact that one time when a certain person decided it would be funny to mess everything in my bank up, it resulted in me spending the next 45 min fixing it (By the way, even though I won’t name any names, I do know who messed up my bank, Dan Burns, I’m still angry at you and will get you back one day). Which sounds ridiculous, even to me, but it’s the truth.

The more I think about it, I look at the way I play many games and you might be able to call it clean and organized. How about you? Is your Cooking Mama kitchen the cleanest kitchen under the sun? Do you mop up the blood after getting a head shot in Call of Duty? Or is there another somewhat unexpected itch you have that a game scratches for you? Working where I work, I once had a blind couple come in asking for a video game with good sound effects. It blew my mind that video games were still entertaining  people that couldn’t take advantage of the whole video part of video games. If you have a story like that about yourself or someone you know, put it in the comments, we would love to see it.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 30, 2010 10:25 pm

    you guys should get some forums up…

    • Matt Calamia permalink
      July 2, 2010 10:36 pm

      We’re working on it haha

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