I didn’t think I was going to write a post today until I started writing one

A couple days ago, I convinced myself that I wasn’t going to write anything today.  I had in mind that I’d pop in with a quick “I’m too tired; back next week!” note, because quite frankly, I’m fuckin’ exhausted. In addition to the regular madness of late summer comings and goings around the house (most of which have involved the garden and some serious squirrel abatement), I spent that last couple weeks planning a Labor Day weekend bash. For some, entertaining is a breeze. For me, it’s difficult. Engaging large crowds under our roof doesn’t happen very often, so having to put on my “hostess” hat isn’t something I’m altogether comfortable with. Granted, we’re just talking friends and family here, not high royalty, but still, planning is planning. And planning around schedules and dietary restrictions and the weather is exhausting. The weekend went off without a hitch, though I’m still in recovery.

The other reasons I thought I might not get to a “real” post this week are because video games have not been at the forefront of my recent thoughts and gaming hasn’t been at the forefront of my recent activities. In other words, I haven’t been playing any games, at least not to any significant extent. Since my last Project 151 post, I haven’t had a second alone with LeafGreen. Would you believe me when I say that, on a whim, I picked up Final Fantasy XIII-2? I did, for reals! A couple weeks later and I’ve completed a whopping 20 minutes of the game. A few days ago I tried to log into my Steam account to purchase The Walking Dead Season 1, but it had been so long since the last time I logged in that the program asked for my password! (Which, of course, I couldn’t remember.) And just when I thought I should give up on life because I’m not a “real gamer,” I started playing The Simpsons: Tapped Out. Again. And then I realized I could probably hold onto my gamer card for a little while longer.

Maybe.

I’ve been playing Tapped Out for almost a year, and its wacky cousin, Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff, for about half as long. And I make that “gamer card” quip not because I don’t think these are “real” games, because they are, but because I really don’t know why I’m playing them. And worse, because I don’t even know if I enjoy playing them. And yet I do, day after day.

I’m sure you’ve heard/read plenty about them, but these are your classic freemium games. The games cost nothing to download and start up. As you build up your own Springfield and Quahog, which need to be rebuilt due to a nuclear explosion and chicken fight, respectively, you amass in-game money that can be used to buy things – buildings, decorations, characters, “special event” items. If you’re cheap like me, you may also yearn mildly for the premium stuff, the things that cost real money. I guess I can proudly say that I’ve never spent any real money on either game, but “proud” isn’t really the right word. It’s more like… ::strokes chin thoughtfully:: … indifferent.  Because I don’t get the same sense of joy  from sending a bunch of random characters to a bunch of random jobs as I do from, say, defeating a boss in Metroid Prime. I want to say that I’m compelled to play out of boredom, but there’s got to be more to it than simply that, otherwise both games would go the way of Farmville, which I rigorously played for awhile and then utterly forgot about until typing it’s name just now.

Part of the reason has to be sheer curiosity. Thinking “what will happen if I do this/move that?” or discovering that I’ve gather enough fake money to build something seemingly spectacular and then wondering what will happen if I actually build said thing. Both games are also pretty keen on adding new updates. Right now, The Quest for Stuff is in the throes  of a  Comic-Con “event” (I’m trying desperately to open up Ron Perelman,and Felicia Day, because I can), and Tapped Out recently released a Clash of Clans-type update called “Clash of Clones.” Each offers up new amusements as well as plenty of things to buy (or admire from afar) for short periods of time. But after the events end, I’m left sending characters on routine jobs for weeks on end. Because there’s nothing new to do, I shouldn’t play, right? Why waste time tapping away when I’ve got a billion other real world tasks in queue?

Well…there are “every day” awards – the things the games give away if you log it at least once a day. There’s also general housekeeping, building up or tearing down your town to suit your fancy. But as with most free-to-play titles, building stuff takes time, so logging into a game daily doesn’t automatically mean you’ll make progress.

I guess there’s also the “I just can’t ignore that which I’ve created” factor. If you raised a puppy from birth, you wouldn’t just start ignoring it one day, right? (Right??) The same premise kind of applies to Tapped Out and The Quest for Stuff. I started from scratch and have slowly created two virtual worlds. Not Nobel Prize-winning tasks, sure, but they still take a little effort. People do it all the time in more “legitimate” ventures like the Sims and Civilization games, I just don’t have to deal with complicated political schemes and sustainable economical developments in Springfield and Quahog. Plus, the simple and goofy humor of each game is very attractive. If something can make me laugh, I’m all for it.

I’m starting to think that I really should have just taken a nap rather than writing, but here we are some…seven paragraphs later, and I should probably wrap this thing up before we enter into the true brambles of whatever point I thought I was going to make. Suffice to say, despite my protestations, I have been gaming, but maybe I’ve just not been playing the right games. Though they are right, for me, for a person with little “laze with a gaming console and television” time on her hands. If you like the worlds of The Simpsons and Family Guy, as well as world building in games, and you don’t mind the occasional wait, Tapped Out and The Quest for Stuff might be right for you too.

Think I better get to that nap now.

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