Geeking Science: Video Game Time Sucks

Astrogarden/Farming Game Image

I call them Inventory Games. You know those games with lots of steps to gather this and that, then build an item, to build another item. The object is not to beat the bad guy but get all the stuff. They appeal to our natural hunt and gather instinct, to have enough to get through the winter. I swear we are hard programmed to play these games, at least I am. Astrogarden takes up far too much of my time, as my 130 level “character” indicates.

Why are these games so addictive? It’s like the manufacturers are tapping directly into our dopamine receptors and drugging us senseless. 

After all, the only thing humans really own is time, and to waste it cutting down virtual trees for hours on end makes no sense.

Originally games were aimed at fulling about 20 to 40 hours, maybe 100 hours of time, complete with a story. Unless it was just mindless Tetris, but even that had natural stop points to sleep and eat and go to work. These Inventory Games NEVER end. They are Grinds. Yet, still, we play.

Sometimes, part of the grind can be short-cut through purchase of items with real-world money. Like you have time to hold down a job while playing these games. This is how the companies make their money. I’ve limited myself to a certain amount per month, treating the “free” Astrogarden as a subscription service. But, really, you can easily drop hundreds of dollars on virtual nothingness. It is worse than Kindle and buying books you never will touch and if your device goes away (or Amazon does, don’t laugh, it has happened for other book and music dealers), everything goes away. I spent weeks getting a new kindle and fixing it just the way I like it when my old one got the black-lines-of-death during the 2019 tax season.

Why, why do I Grind through Inventory Games which provide no meals on my real-world table? One, it is therapeutic. Like doing embroidery and sewing. I notice the more I videogame, the less I sew. They provide the same need, to take a brain break. And the game, with its colored lights, happy music, and noticeable, achievable goals is much more fun, without being really fun, than sewing for 10 hours. Plus I can click my mouse for 10 hours in a single day, and I can’t stab cloth that long without my eyes crossing.

And tons more fun than putting words on a screen. Not reading them after the words successfully fought their way out of my head, but the process of words on screen makes grinding through the trees and rock appealing.

You want to kill the productivity of a nation – get the more active, the more intelligent, the go-getters, and the children – addicted to something that feels like it produces something but actually produces nothing. Kind-of like a paper-pusher job, only with fun lights every five minutes instead of a coffee break every two hours.

I need to figure out how to funnel my “time wasting” habits, the brain breaks, where I am not thinking, back into productive actions like sewing and cleaning house.

In the meantime, I’m off – my Tiger-Cows need milking and my hybrid-crops need harvesting.


Wong, David. The Secret Reason So Many Video Games are a Tedious Grind. . Last viewed 9/17/2019.