Editorial: Plants vs Zombies vs Ethos

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A screengrab of Ethos’ mind.

To be perfectly frank, dear LusiBlocks, the game I have played the most is my life might actually be Tetris DS. And if it is not, then it is probably Plants vs Zombies. This is not necessarily indicative of how good I think they are, or even how high they place on my favourite games list, but rather speaks to how addictive and easy to play they are. This can be a positive quality and, indeed, I think Plants vs Zombies is a great little game, but my relationship with it is souring.

It took me quite some time to do everything there is to do in the game. I beat the campaign. I beat the campaign again, this time with Crazy Dave choosing three of my plants. I beat the mini-games. I beat the puzzle levels. I beat the survival levels. I not only played the Zen Garden, but I grew the Wisdom Tree to the point when it stopped “blessing” me with its “wisdom”. The gamers who have gone down that rabbit hole have some idea of the inexcusable length of time that must have taken me.

One would think, dear LusiSeedlings, that after exhausting a game so thoroughly – and one already pushing the definition of “full-sized game” – that I would be done. That I could wait until June of this year – when the sequel is due out – to get my next Plants vs Zombies fix. Especially considering that it has been about three years since I first started playing. But apparently not, dear LusiUndead.

There is a strange limbo that I enter sometimes in my life, dear LusiGravestones, when I am overwhelmed by responsibility and creativity and my own manic mind on overdrive, but I still have my innate desire to play video games all this time. This is not a new topic for me to address on this site, but I am beginning to understand the pattern that emerges during this period. I notice that I hide in the shadows more often to sneak in visits to flash game websites. I log into Steam for the first time in months to play a game like Defender’s Quest. Not that there is anything wrong with Defender’s Quest. It is a creative and strategic little title. But it is not the type of title in which my gaming soul resides. I want to play Ni no Kuni and Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time and Borderlands 2 and Assassin’s Creed 3 and Tales of Graces f. Just to name a few.

Need more madness.
Not enough madness.

So now a game like Plants vs Zombies – which used to represent playful, well-constructed gaming fun – now represents my dark days of gaming. There is a certain resignation I make in my mind when I boot it up. But this is where the tale gets even more frustrating, dear LusiWatermelons. Dear LusiVases and LusiLanterns. Because when I start playing a game like Plants vs Zombies – because I ostensibly do not have the time for a more involving title – I end up sinking a few hours into the game anyway.

Of course there is more at play than just the time involved. I do not have to pay as much attention with Plants vs Zombies. It is on my PC, so I can just tab over to my desktop and reply to an e-mail or dick around on the internet or look something up on Wikipedia that I really never needed to know. There is also the dangerous notion that I could just stop playing PvZ at any time. The levels are short, so the commitment feels more non-committal.

The most frustrating thing about that, dear LusiInsomniacs, is that I know it is a trick I play on myself. I know that when I play Plants vs Zombies, it is not just for the twenty minutes I tell myself it will be. Then I just end up being awake at two in the morning feeling like if I did anything anything else, my night would have been more productive.

Not to take you to too dark of a place, dear LusiCrises, I do not intend for this website to be my journal (who am I kidding, I totally intend for this website to be my journal), but it is literally the only thing gaming related in my mind right now. Etrian Odyssey IV is still my favourite game since Skyward Sword, but what else is there to say about it until I – hopefully – complete and review it?

No, until I have my next inevitable brief relapse into sanity, you all have to deal with my far more consistent plummets into madness. Plummets accompanied by sunflowers, Michael Jackson zombies, and money-eating snails.

3 comments

  1. This is my exact relationship with Spider Solitaire. At least Plants vs Zombies is a real game.

  2. Hi, my name is Tim, and I lived in an unrequited and abusive relationship with Plants vs Zombies. It started when a friend passed me the PC disk, telling me that it was the hip new thing that all the cool kids were trying. I also beat the campaign, also grew the wisdom tree, defeated the puzzles, and eagerly awaited any bit of extra material I could get my hands on.

    Then I bought it for my Kindle, and did it all over again.

    Then my Kindle deleted my save file, and I did it all over again.

    Slightly more on topic:

    I think this touches on the far more sinister elements of “game addiction” (for lack of a better phrase). While many AAA games have their own variations of Skinner boxes, “casual” games like PvsZ (or their more heinous companions, the ‘Dash’ series) are virtually built as Skinner boxes to make up for their deficiencies elsewhere. Their casual nature drop the defenses of gamers who are used to the time investment of AAA games (thinking, of course, that they’ll only do “one level”) only to be gradually suckered into completing stage after stage after stage by the enticement of completing the furnishings for that one room or getting all three freaking stars.

  3. It’s amazing how someone who manages their real life time poorly will get addicted to these games (I speak from some Diner Dash experience). I think it is a sign of some mental disorder, which is neither a bad thing nor insulting, but a cul-de-sac we all can find ourselves in sometimes. They’re the cigarettes of video games.

    Solataire breaks it down into the simplest elements: red and black, descending and ascending numbers. There is a certain nobility in this. But it’s not a game, as much as reorganizing your bookshelf is not a game.

    I think my favorite casual puzzley game is Portal 2. I just gotta test, I just gotta test…

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