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Grinding and working fantasy

One thing games and stories have in common is that, for some weird reason we love when they talk about work.

We love stories of lawyers and we love power-wash simulators. A friend of mine bought a freakin’ airplane cabin for his garden and teaches maneuvers to newbies every night on Il-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad.

We also love games with less fidelity, still on work-related stuff. Nintendogs had a tremendous success, for instance. Some DS owner just got that game and that’s it.

One of the best moments of What Remains of Edith Finch (the most memorable, to me) happens while you are cutting and cleaning fish.

These games can tell stories that we relate to deeply, and give us a different sort of escapism.

When we are kids, many of us play actual professions. I was an astronomer, I bought zines and everything: a true expert! I spent my afternoons with maps, numbers, and theories I didn’t understand.

When a game is bad or “grindy” for us we often say “I feel like I am working”, but the working fantasy has a huge narrative potential.

Games and novels can turn mundane experiences into ones that pull on our psychology of reward faster than the real world. There are sparkles, rewards, sounds, and bouncing numbers.

The working metaphor can be easily related to reality, we can feel productive in terms of that particular fantasy. A well-thought work fantasy can also intrinsically motivate players who like to feel productive and valued.

Published inGame DesignNarrative

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