I am notoriously terrible at computer and video games. Don’t get me wrong, I like them. Occasionally I even love them. But, and I know this phrasing is going to get me in trouble, I do not have dextrous fingers. My gaming is usually of the table top variety, but in the instances I enjoy computer games, I usually enjoy something with a good story that I can point and click through while using my brain to solve puzzles. Except of course when I’m on overload mode, like right now. Sometimes what I need out of a game instead is to disconnect, look at the pretty and breathe. Usually they involve immersive sound design of some kind. Here are a few games that are helping me do just that.
This is a minimalist puzzle game about chemistry. Move one element around to pick up other elements and create a chemical, but be warned! Some environments are special. The name of the puzzle always has a hint in it. Its open, bright spaces and candy-colored atoms make for an easy feel even as the puzzles get harder. And that sound design! Gosh, it’s so relaxing. Throw on some headphones and get sciencey.
The tagline for this game is “a collection of places that morph to your touch.” Each of the 15 worlds has 18 channels that you can morph using your mouse, keyboard and even, for the musical among us, a MIDI controller. That’s how keyed into sound this game is—and I even think it was made by a DJ? Maybe? I seem to remember hearing that somewhere. The 18 channels morph both visual and audio elements, and you can take snapshots to share when you make something cool. I highly recommend sitting down with some tea and your nice headphones. The nice headphones are really important for this one.
Fragile Soft Machines
This French game is a calming, writing game where your choices affect the world and the way you describe things affects the story. The simple questions partnered with, once again, excellent sound design make you think about what you want right there, at the computer. You. Not the game you, which in this case is a butterfly with a busted wing, but you-you as well. What do you want out of this world? What are you hoping for? And it doesn’t require dexterity—simply point at the vines you want to climb, and climb higher (or not). This game is actually a little difficult to describe, but does it help you to know that I might teach it alongside poetry? To me, this is the poetry of games.
I squealed with delight while playing Proteus for the first time. The idea is simple—no goal, no jumping or slashing. Just looking with your mouse and walking forward with a click. You take a walk in nature. That’s it. But your world is created before your very opening eyes, and it has the most incredible tapestry of sound. Rain makes music. Strange mushrooms honk at you. Time exists, with the sun rising and setting, the moon and stars looking down from inky blue skies. Ugh. You guys. I ran through a rain cloud on a mountain top! I chased chickens! I swam while the sun was setting! I highly recommend this game! Is it a game? This computerized alternate reality experience? I dunno, just play it with some headphones and breathe deeply!
So what games are you playing to destress? Am I the only one who doesn’t find hurting stuff cathartic? IDK, y’all, maybe it’s just against my alignment.