Increasing Self-esteem with casual games

I really hate to admit it, but the past month or so I’ve been obsessing over a time-management game called Farm Frenzy 3: Ice Age. The Farm Frenzy franchise is kind of like the Diner Dash, Cake Mania, or Ranch Rush franchises in that this “frenzy” isn’t terrible unique from the previous “frenzy” and requires an awful lot of clicking. There is no way of discreetly playing this game at work because of the zealous clicking sounds from my mouse.

I was playing this game far more than I should. At first I thought it was a procrastination problem. Obviously, I had a lot to do, some of which was being temporarily put off when I chose to play several minutes (sometimes several hours) of this game. But then, I realized that no, it wasn’t exactly pure procrastination, because there are several other games on my computer, all of which I could have used to procrastinate. But why did I choose this specific one?

So then I thought, it must be the game content. As my screen name “arcticpenguin” implies, I have a soft spot for plump animals that live in the polar regions. The three stuffed animals in my room are a penguin, a polar bear, and a beluga whale. Farm Frenzy 3: Ice Age caters well to the cold theme. The game basically requires you to harvest certain items from the animals (you must keep them well-fed) and then you process to items to make processed materials which you can sell for a higher price. For instance, you can harvest eggs from a penguin and turn them in a bag a flour, then a cookie, then a cake. Ok, eggs don’t exactly create flour, but the game has a lot of incorrect things: for instance, mammoths create snowballs that you can process into ice cubes. In this game, obviously mammoths are not extinct.

But after playing for quite a while, I stopped saying “awww” as I watched the penguins waddle around the frozen pond. The animals were cute, but I knew all the visual elements, I was becoming sensitized. At that point, I had already cracked all the levels, and was working on getting a gold trophy for each level.

I then realized that I was playing for achievement to gain self-esteem. Getting a perfect gold trophy-worthy score on a level was not always easy, but the moment it was accomplished, I felt a wave of satisfaction very unlike the rush of adrenaline I get when I beat an opponent in StarCraft. It wasn’t a racy feeling of blood-pumping, heart-pounding kick of energy. It was more of a warm feeling of calm and content. It was the feeling of self-esteem, pride… a different type of satisfaction.

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