If you're like me, video games have crept into every corner of your life and psyche. That's normal, right?
Video games have always been a big part of my life, so much so that I can't help seeing connections to them in the real world, kind of like how the Beautiful Mind guy sees numbers everywhere (though in reality, this is probably more accurate). In one of my first FTAP columns, I wrote about some of the real-life game crossovers I "played" during last year's E3, but that was just the tip of the iceberg.
I've spent the past couple days obsessing casually thinking about the commonalities that video game genres share with my day-to-day activities, and as it turns out, there's a lot of them! Below is a whole list of game genres and their totally ordinary real-life counterparts that I'm sure everyone who is a normal person like me can relate to. So let's get started!
Real-life equivalent: Springtime Walks In Minnesota
Winterfell ain't got sh– on Minnesota, but this year's mild snowy offerings have already given way to an early spring. My wife and I have tried to capitalize on Mother Nature's blessings, but you can't walk two feet without running into a flooded sidewalk. The solution? My wife walks in the street like a boring, dry-shoed person, but I approach the challenge like any platforming pro would: shimmying along sidewalk edges, balancing on curbs, and leaping between foot-soaking puddles. Admittedly, my approach is less Nathan Drake and more old-school Prince of Persia – i.e. inching right up to the edge, trying to leap from a standing position, and biffing hard.
Genre: Adventure Game
Real-life equivalent: Looking For My Keys
Sure, I might not be exploring some alien world or saving the day, but the all-too-frequent quest to find my keys is like an adventure game in every other way – from desperately scouring every inch of my environment for clues, to futilely testing absurd solutions in hopes of progressing ("Did I maybe drop them in this box of cereal somehow?"). If you're inclined to assign a sub-genre, I'd probably call it a Graphic Adventure based on the language I mutter to myself during the frustrating search.
Genre: Endless Runner
Real-life equivalent: Using A Treadmill
These two activities play out identically for me – I spend the entire time wondering why the hell I'm putting myself through such a pointless exercise, until I quit out of sheer boredom (which usually takes about five minutes). As a result, I don't even bother downloading endless runners anymore, and my treadmill has a bunch of boxes stacked on top of it. My wife keeps saying we need to clear it off, but that's an easy fix: Just turn it on and stand clear!
Genre: Fighting Game
Real-life equivalent: Arguing With My Wife Over Spoilers
Look, I wrote a whole column on my weirdness with spoilers, and I don't want to get into it again. Suffice it to say, there's no reason to read Netflix's "next episode" synopsis when you're going to watch said episode five seconds later – and I'll fight anyone to the death who says otherwise (naturally, by "fight to death" I mean cover their eyes and whisper "spoilers!" into their ear). I can't count the number of times my wife and I have clashed over this charming personality quirk* of mine, but thankfully we only have a 15-second window to argue before the next episode starts, so it never escalates beyond mild annoyance.
Genre: Survival Horror
Real-life equivalent: Using A Public Restroom
What else is there to say? Every time I slowly creak open a restroom door Resident Evil-style, I shudder at the horrific sights I may encounter – then breathe a sigh of relief on the way out for having survived another perilous adventure. It's not just me…right?
Genre: Collectible Card Game
Real-life equivalent: The Crap I Stuff In My Wallet
Long before Hearthstone took the industry by storm, I was playing my own collectible card game. The goal? See how much useless crap I can cram into my wallet. Random business cards, countless faded receipts, an expired U of M alumni card – I might as well print out some copies of Magma Rager and stuff them in there for good measure. I still carry around an MTA Metro Pass for the subway in New York, and I haven't lived there for 15 years! I've actually tried to clean out my wallet in the past, but it's been overstuffed for so many years that my credit cards slide right out if they're not wedged into the card slots with useless filler. I guess in that sense it's actually useful filler – but not any less pathetic.
Genre: Farming Sim
Real-life equivalent: Yard Work
I've written about my obsession with Stardew Valley in the past, but I've been known to enjoy a little IRL gardening as well; a row of out-of-control raspberry bushes keeps our freezer stocked with fruit all year. Granted there is one drawback, in the form of a berry-stealing squirrel that taunts me with its cold, beady eyes at it eats the literal fruits of my labor. Above and beyond my rodent rival, however, I just wish the rest of the yardwork also had some tangible benefit – or that it would be over with a few button taps.
Genre: Idle Clicker
Real-life equivalent: Elevator Buttons
I don't care if it doesn't speed up the elevator, I'm furiously tapping that button until the doors open. And the fact that the "Close Door" button is a dirty lie won't stop me from jamming on it, either – especially when I see Shea walking up.
Genre: Arcade Racing
Real-life equivalent: My Morning Commute
Alright, alright, my drive to work would actually be the most mundane racing sim ever, requiring you to diligently drive the speed limit at all times and use your blinker even when no one is around, while an MPR report on tax policy plays at a comfortable audio level. However, anytime I miss a light or get stuck behind some idiot waiting to turn against oncoming traffic, I fantasize of hitting my nonexistent turbo button and ramming everyone off the road. So I'm going to go ahead and count that as Arcade Racing – or maybe Car Combat?
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy
Real-life equivalent: Troubleshooting Parental Tech Problems Over The Phone
If I had a dollar for every time I've helped my parents figure out why they can't "boot up the Internet," I'd be as rich as the savviest Silicon Valley snob. But figuring out the problem and conveying the solution over the phone requires all the planning and deep strategy of a Sid Meier game – and plays out just as slowly. Each simplified command is followed by 30 seconds of dead silence, like the transmission delay from a moon mission for dummies. "Is there a light blinking? Unplug it then plug it back in. Did that do anything? Are you sure it's not blinking? Describe what you think the icon looks like. Okay, let's start from square one: Is the computer on fire? Houston, we have a problem.**" Picking the right strategy is the only thing saving me from a 20-minute drive to manually reboot their modem, and I'm not thrilled with my win-loss ratio.
Real-life equivalent: My Evening Routine
Let's see, I can do this: eXercise, eXamine my Netflix queue, eXpand my waistline (a.k.a. take my pants off), and eXplain whatever idiotic thing I recently did to my wife. Piece of cake.
Genre: Match-Three Games
Real-life equivalent: Picking Out Socks In The Dark
Before you jump to any conclusions: No, I don't have three legs. What I do have is two different types of socks: Some black Hanes socks with red lettering, and some cheapo knock-off socks that nevertheless still successfully cover my feet. So why grab three? Like any normal person, I pick out my clothes in the dark after stumbling out of bed five seconds earlier – grabbing three guarantees at least two of them will match. The third usually gets balled up and thrown at my wife when she least expects it.
Real-life equivalent: Sneaking To Bed At 5:00AM
For me (and I'm sure you, because we've established that all of this behavior is perfectly normal), every late-night video game bender ends with an obligatory stealth sequence – i.e. turning off all the lights in the house and tip-toeing into the bedroom so as to not wake up my snoozing wife. Oftentimes, she falls asleep on the couch instead, in which case it becomes a kind of stealth/escort hybrid mission: I have to guide her to the bedroom in a half-asleep state, without bumping her into any furniture or letting her see the bedroom clock. Even when she does figure out how ridiculously late it is, she doesn't complain much – turns out that on the spectrum of male behavior, there are far worse reasons for sneaking to bed at 5:00AM than quietly playing video games in the next room.
Genre: Party Game
Real-life equivalent: Going To Parties (Duh)
The only difference here is that there's only one mini-game in real life, and it's seeing how much cake I can eat before I want to throw up.
Real-life equivalent: Learning Japanese In College
Just like Roguelikes, my four years of studying Japanese in college featured a high degree of randomness, and slow, statistical improvement – and when it was over I lost all of my progress. Sad! – or as the Japanese would say, …I can't remember.
Genre: Sandbox RPG
Real-life equivalent: Cleaning My Nonexistent Cat's Litterbox
I don't actually own a cat, but if I did, I imagine that attending to the litterbox would be just like exploring the wide-open landscape of your favorite sandbox RPG – only the main questline is finding turds. That also aptly sums up why I don't own a cat.
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*Those are my words for it, but you probably guessed that… (back to top)
**If this joke bothers you because technically I'm Houston in this scenario, then congratulations: You're as neurotic as I am. (back to top)