Monday, May 4, 2020

Building a new Happy Place: The Joy of base building video games during quarantine

My favorite movie theater, the one with the ratty leather sofas and the really good cheeseburgers and jalapeno fries is closed. Disneyland, where I cry every time I walk through the front gate and collect pins and autographs from characters I know for a fact are just people in costumes is closed. The game store that sells board games a little cheaper than anyone else and would let me sit there whenever I had a bad day at work and unwind before getting home to do homework isn't letting people into the store. Even my apartment, which was decorated with all my wife and I's souvenirs, pictures of loved ones and the art I made is currently in a pile of boxes due to a recent move.

My happy places are gone. 

It's depressing to have all the familiar and warm places no longer be operating. It's hard to know what to do or what to plan. Luckily, I have a few places to go that aren't subject to quarantine, though I may have to deal with the occasional creeper or feral ghoul. 

Base Building Games

This concept isn't new. Minecraft pioneered the idea though prototypes can be found in The Sims and a select few other games before it. The idea is that a player's goal among others is to build their own safe spot, their own base to heal, resupply and generally have control over between fighting monsters with the occasional defense needed to keep the more pesky jerks away. These games are highly addicting and sought after, since there's something to the game play of scavenging for resources to build that new terrarium to your doom fortress, but in times like now it takes on an even bigger appeal: building a virtual stability when reality can't offer the same. 

The Other Obvious One

Of course if you follow video game news at all you know that besides Minecraft right now the hottest base building game on the market is Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Released near the beginning of the pandemic, Animal Crossing has become the social video game experience we needed beyond all others. You can customize your little island with whatever decorations you want and invite adorable little animal villagers to live with you and make your own cute community. Even the hardest of the hardcore gamers can't deny the appeal of trying to collect all the fish and fossils to please the plaid wearing owl in the museum. 

Updates and Upvotes 

For the more hardcore gamer looking for some combat in their new happy place, Fallout 76 offers a unique perspective to the concept. While it was almost universally panned when it first released, Fallout 76 has since been patched and updated due to the vocalization of its fans on sites like Reddit, where people saw the potential of the game and begged Bethesda not to abandon it. Now we can roam the wastelands in search of treasure with actual NPCs, There is something appealing to not only building a base where you can rest and craft but that can also defend you while you're working, plus earn you some extra caps from traveling players. 
The OG

They're are hundreds more examples of great base building games (Dragon Quest: Builders, Terraria, Trove...) but none compare to the daddy of them all Minecraft. People have built some mind blowing structures since the game first released, and coupled with the fact that it can be a co-op couch experience the appeal of this one isn't going to go away anytime soon. It's a good way to bond with the kids while we wait for this horror show to pass. 

Self Care

There's a loss of normalcy in the world right now, and while we wait for everything to return to somewhat the way it was we need to make our own normal for the time being. Games like Animal Crossing and Fallout 76 offer a reason to add to the routine with daily quests and updates, making them worlds that can easily become a habit. That habit can be just the escape you need in these times to help give a sense of stability and fun, plus you get your pick between exploding bush monsters, radioactive zombies and penguins in adorable sweaters. 


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