Gaming is often full of bombast and excitement with wide sprawling worlds and heavy narratives that draw you in. Often you’re actively involved in what is going on and paying careful attention to what you’re doing since everything has an important place. The story, the characters, the soundtrack, the visuals, everything. However, we also live immensely busy lives full of stress and problems that we sometimes need to escape from. This is when games can sometimes feel like a burden since they can become quite taxing on you.
Because I’m rich (I’m actually not), I have two televisions mounted on my wall that are connected to both my PC and my consoles. During the evenings when I’m not in the mood for massive epics or involved storylines, I put on a game and then watch some YouTube videos at the same time on my other TV. You’d think it’s sensory overload, but it’s actually incredibly relaxing. I often watch stuff that doesn’t take a lot of mental involvement and the game I’m playing often doesn’t have a lot of that either. The result is a chilled out experience that takes my mind off the many stresses and problems I face.
You don’t have to have a mad setup like mine to appreciate games that take your mind off things. They can be a meditative experience where you kind of just shut down the part of your brain that allows you to be fully involved in what you’re doing. Let’s look at five of those games.
It’s a farming game, yes, but unlike something as painfully boring as Farming Simulator, Stardew Valley has all the charm in the world along with a wonderful setting that makes you feel at peace. It’s quite fitting that the central motivation for your character to go live on a farm is to get away from the constant hustle and bustle of the real world, a soul-crushing job and a lack of fulfilment. You spend your days watering crops, talking to the colourful locals and exploring mysterious places.
It is so packed with variety and you can spend potentially hundreds of hours growing your farm empire and becoming a staple in the local community. It’s immensely relaxing, especially with its soothing soundtrack and propensity to make you fall into a fulfilling routine. Stardew Valley has helped me so much with my troubles with its serene nature that I’m considering writing a full article just on how magical this game can be.
Or as I like to call it, Space Truck Simulator. Elite Dangerous is a space simulation in every sense of the genre. You get a ship and then you are free to explore and take advantage of the vast galaxy in whatever way you deem fit. You can become a bounty hunter, taking out ships that cause the galaxy trouble or you can become a simple trader, flying between space stations and trading cargo.
I’m primarily a trader and while it may sound boring to spend your time in the vast universe doing what is essentially a delivery service, it’s also a glorious way to unwind. Put on a podcast, throw on a long video and then just roam the galaxy looking for profit. It helps that you get to upgrade your ship and use your hard earned credits to do some interesting things such as land on planets or mine asteroids for valuable resources. For someone like myself who loves space, Elite Dangerous is the perfect candidate to use as a chill game.
No Man’s Sky
Yes, yes, I’m well aware of and share a lot of the criticism for this game. It’s a polarising game and one that got kind of overshadowed by its controversy. In reality, it’s a nice little space exploration game and ever since getting it for dirt cheap, it has become my unwind game of choice. It’s not as involved as Elite Dangerous where you sometimes have to use spreadsheets or take special classes in how to land your bloody ship.
No Man’s Sky has an emphasis on exploration and that can be very enjoyable when you’re looking to chill out. Land on a purple planet, look at the (very) strange creatures, fly around looking for mysteries and just generally having a pretty laid back time. We put No Man’s Sky through the ringer in many ways, but it’s still a very nice exploration game and it is unique in what it does. It’s certainly great for putting on some videos and then just mining a big lump of gold on a planet with a green sky.
Good old Skyrim. The game I spent 300 hours of my life on and what probably halted quite a bit of productivity worldwide. Skyrim is also about exploration and discovery with a healthy respect for the grind. Not all caves are filled with wonders and only have Draugrs trying to make your life hell. Aside from the longer side-quests and the main story, Skyrim doesn’t really require a lot of involvement. The smaller quests are easy, you’re going to spend a lot of time smithing and also doing innocuous stuff to level things up.
Have sword, will travel applies quite heavily to this game. The majority of your time is spent going over to undiscovered locations and ransacking everything in sight. It’s calming, even if you’re shooting flames out of your hands. If you’re a stealth archer like I was, it’s even more calming. Sneaking in the shadows and headshotting some Forsworn in a cave does wonders for the blood pressure.
Didn’t expect this after I went on about “bombast” in the first paragraph now did you? DOOM is insane from start to finish. A violent tear through Hell’s monstrosities accompanied by a killer heavy metal soundtrack. It’s designed to get your blood pumping and your adrenaline rushing. So why include this in a list full of calmness? Well, a big part of relaxation is catharsis. Releasing your repressed emotions. And what better way of doing that than ripping and tearing through a demonic horde with djent guitars blasting in your ears?
After a particularly violent slaughtering, all those pent up aggression and troubles you had start to feel much more manageable. An explosion of emotion that is as good as beating a punching bag or hitting a wall with your first, but much less painful or physically exhausting. DOOM is one of the paths you can take to true enlightenment.
Games can be these huge epics with complex storylines, but they can also simply be something you use to unwind after having a bad day. Whether it be turnip farming, space trucking, exploring caves or shotgunning demons in the face, there is a lot out there to relax you. Some of you might fire up some competitive multiplayer games to unwind after a long day, even if that can sometimes be deleterious to your blood pressure. Some will play drive fictional trucks through the countryside. There’s something for everyone in gaming to calm their mind.
Which games do you use to relax?