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3 Reasons to Hate Casual Video Games

There was a Flash game I got into a while back. Armored Tank or Shoot Gun or Tank Tank or something like that. You know the type of game I'm talking about; you've probably got your own Tank Tank. Maybe it's Angry Birds or Bejeweled or TankVille or whatever. Some cheap, simple little video game that you play when nothing else is going on. Mine was Tank Tank, and for two or three months, I played the hell out of it, in the process getting really, really good at tanking.

And then I realized that I hated it.

Why?

#3. It Was a Waste of Time

It should not surprise you if I reveal that playing Tank Tank for four hours every day did not make me a better person. It did make me an older person, and thus legally a wiser person, though that benefit I mostly credit to the local topography of space-time. For example, I'd be just as wise if I'd crammed tanks up my ass for four hours a day instead, and certainly a lot more famous.

Maybe you don't see what the big deal is; it's something that might come with perspective. You see, now that I'm over a tenth of the way through my expected 300-year lifespan (Canadian health care), I have a certain appreciation for the value of time. I don't like wasting it, especially when I know there's something better I could be doing. And there was always something better to do than play Tank Tank. Whether it was reading or writing or simple duck harassment, I have any number of other hobbies and pastimes that provide greater lasting joy than playing Tank Tank.

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No, I couldn't see that program, because I don't have a television. What's that? Oh, I was out molesting fowl all night.

Just to be clear here: I am not an efficiency fanatic, nor demanding that everyone lead the clean, productive life that I do, because that life is a fiction. Indeed, I know how to procrastinate; this column took about five hours longer to write than it should have, purely because of the Wikipedia entry for ALF. I get that not everything has to be productive. There's value in simply having a good time.

Which brings me to my next complaint about Tank Tank ...

#2. It Wasn't Fun

Fun is obviously a pretty subjective quality; what's fun for one person may not be fun for another. Nipple clamps, for example, get a very divided response depending on which fun-centric event you bring them out at.

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If you haven't been to a Chuck E. Cheese After Dark, you don't know the meaning of pleasure.

So maybe Tank Tank would be fun for you. But for me, it was an almost mindlessly idiotic game. There were three or four controls and a few tank widgets, but fundamentally, every single action in the game was identical to the previous one. Tank, tank, repeat. With so little variation in the basic gameplay, the overarching strategy was also trivial. Tanking your tank at an expert level takes about an hour to figure out, less if you've seen this type of game before, which, thanks to a childhood spent avoiding the sun, I have, many many times.

I've played video games for too, too long now, and basic stuff like headshots and getting a shotgun for your second weapon and tank tanking is all old hat to me. What I crave is originality. Games that show me something new. Whether it's a new type of gameplay, or a massive new world to explore, or the ability to be more like Batman than I normally am. (I basically never want to play anything that isn't Arkham Something ever again). I'm generally a sucker for big single-player games, anything that required a couple hundred level designers to not see their families for months on end. Especially the ones written by actual writers -- there's nothing like an intelligible narrative to get me semi-hard.

Nothing about Tank Tank was new; I've been playing variants of it for decades. And most of the little casual games are like this. I've played at least two or three games identical to Angry Birds, there are a hundred fucking iPhone games that mix Scrabble and Boggle in some ratio and Fruit Ninja is ... I've admittedly never played anything like Fruit Ninja before. But that's because I think Fruit Ninja was made for idiots.


You just slice the fruit? Again and again? Did it kidnap the president or something?

(I know some of you don't like originality so much as you like games that are challenging, and I won't knock you for it; I used to be hardcore!!! once myself. But challenge isn't a big draw for me anymore. Most games simply aren't that hard, and the ones that are seem to derive their difficulty via horribly artificial means -- one-hit deaths and over-armored enemies, and anything that can only be solved by memorization or rote learning. It feels too much like work to me, and if I'm going to work at something, I'd like to actually have something to show for it at the end. Like a diploma, or a bitchy column about video games, or a new feathered friend.)

So if Tank Tank wasn't fun, and was a waste of my time, why'd I keep playing it long enough for the fucking seasons to change?

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