Both Sim City and Minecraft, and probably other games too, offer a ‘creative’ or ‘sandbox’ mode.  This means that the game turns off all the monsters and disasters and gives you unlimited access to materials. With all that potential wealth at your fingertips, why would people play any other way?

See all that dark brown ground - very bad pollution!
See all that dark brown ground – very bad pollution!

During my recent bout of Sim City playing, I at first resisted the urge to play in the sandbox.  I did manage to build a good city with a somewhat stable budget, but large problems loomed. The coal that made the city so much money was running out and the ground pollution caused by the mining and the trash was slowly seeping across the land towards my dwindling water supply. Random tornadoes and Godzilla had ruined important structures. ( I could go on detailing the various strategies to handle those problems – but I haven’t figured it all out yet.)

It got really frustrating, so I started a new city, this time in sandbox mode, and it was good.  Ah – the perfect city – clean energy, low taxes, lots of education for all those happy little sims.  Lovely.

So Pretty and Perfect
So Pretty and Perfect

Funny thing though…  I haven’t played since the day I built that city.

I haven’t played Minecraft in ages.  In Minecraft’s normal mode there are Creepers.  These monsters do nothing but chase after you and blow you up.  The explosion scatters all the precious materials that you have gathered around the area where you died, potentially losing them forever.  If you happen to be standing next to the awesome structure you’ve just spent hours building, they blow that up too.  All the other monsters in Minecraft I can deal with, but the Creepers freak me out.  So I play in creative mode and build sprawling manor houses or majestic castles, and then…  After a moment or two of admiring my work, I turn the game off.

It is hard to go back to normal mode, with its money problems and lack of resources after playing in creative mode.  But there is something about watching in horror as a tornado rips through the really expensive hospital you just plopped down (and, yes, Plop is the word they use in Sim City to place a structure on the ground – weirdos.)  that, while making you want to punch a hole in your monitor, also makes you want to keep playing, in an, “I’ll show you,,” sort of way.

It is the monsters that make the games interesting.  Games without challenges might be easy and stress free, but they’re not addictive.  They don’t wake you up in the middle of the night with a mind full of ideas on how to solve the latest crisis.  We’ve all got these gigantic, problem-solving brains – if we aren’t using them to solve problems, well, what’s the point?

Next time I play Sim City, I’ll go back to my original, troubled city and see what I can come up with to fix it.  The perfect sandbox city will hover in my memory as the goal for ‘reality,’ but I doubt I’ll ever play in it again. Perfect is Boring.

4 thoughts on “Once you go Creative, why go back to Normal?

  1. Love your blog – completely in awe of your gaming stats. I think I have maybe a half dozen achievements on the xBox, all in the, ‘congrats, you managed to hit three buttons in a row without getting a cramp in your thumb’ category. (side note – I have been really interested in all achievements in SWTOR, I might start keeping track of those… maybe – looks like a lot of work!) Anyway – thanks for reading…. I’m off to build my IRL apartment in Minecraft now… thanks for the idea!

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  2. Another awesome post girl 🙂 I LOVED survival Minecraft, but since discovering Creative Mode I haven’t really been back. Gravity sucks and big projects are just not possible when you have to mine all the resources yourself. Buuuutttt…. creative can then become boring, because everything is too easy. The only way to stop yourself from getting bored is to build ridiculously large over the top projects that you can still be proud of despite not doing the ‘hard graft’ of mining the materials. Working as a team also helps. We have a shared world on the X360 version of Minecraft and we’re always finding something new to build. I’ve blogged about it today actually, so check it out 🙂

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  3. I get a kick out of the fact you are a gamer, Jill. We started with an 8-bit Nintendo when our son was a little guy, and we worked our way through all of the systems until our son moved out with his xbox last year. I still play a few games on my computer, but nothing like when we had gaming systems in the house. My mother is 81 and she has gamed for years and years. She has had most of the systems and has blown through three Game Cubes. They weren’t defective; she played them that much! 🙂

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