Jay Button: Chill out with these relaxing games

September 15, 2011

Working in a game store for a living means I interact quite often with the “normies” or “muggles”. These people go to a game store with no idea what they’re going to buy and ask questions, like “what’s the newest game out?” That’s all that concerns them about their purchase. There are without a doubt hundreds of cheaper, most likely better, titles on whatever console they own, yet the newness of the game is most important. Writing about games for a pretend living means this type of behavior fascinates me and leads me to constantly ask why.

I ask this of everyone though: my peers, other writers, muggles and game developers. The most common answer is, of course, “they’re fun.” Following that? The second most frequent answer, “they’re relaxing.” Most people that say this are buying Call of Duty or Halo, and are obviously full of shit and pawing for any answer they’ve heard someone else say and stored in their brain in case someone tasked them with the activity of thinking for themselves. But it got me thinking about my choices in games.

I have what I call “gaming ADD”. At any point if I want to finish a long game without putting it down for months at a time I have to be playing three to five games at once. This is also because I’ll want to play different things depending on my mood. When killing things feels appropriate, I’ll pop in Uncharted for some multiplayer havoc. If I’m tired, I’ll lay in bed with a good handheld RPG, but I too will sometimes just want to unwind. These are some of the games I use to relax. What are yours?


PixelJunk: Eden

In doing research for this article, several people suggested the PixelJunk games on PSN. I’ve played a couple of them, but Eden is the one that really felt appropriate for this article. As a tiny bug-thing, you fling yourself around a colorful stage on lengths of thread and collect seeds while helping plants grow. The signature minimalist PixelJunk visuals are easy on the eyes, and the soothing music make this game feel like a digital Valium. Each level has a time limit and can turn into a crunch towards the end, though.



Another PSN title. The PSN always seemed like the digital console platform for more artistic titles, while the XBLA will get more marketable titles (and more games in general). Using the PS3’s Sixaxis controls, the player guides a tiny flower petal on gusts of wind around an enormous, beautifully rendered, field of grass. At first glance it looks like a shovelware title on the Wii, but plays more like a racing game as vibrant trails of flowers grow in your path and fill the field. This is one of those ‘get into the zone’ games. Flower will suck you in, and the next thing you know it’s the middle of the night. Or morning, if you were so chilled out that you woke up in front of the PS3 with a drool-covered DualShock.



On first boot, Minecraft can be the most daunting game ever. Even if you’ve never played it, I’m sure you’ve heard about the creepers who will suicide-bomb your house. or how terrifying and long a night can be. Then you’re given a huge landscape covered in trees, mountains and rivers and told to complete one simple task. Build. Once you’ve punched down your first tree, turned the wood into sticks, and turned those sticks into an axe with which to knock down even more trees, you’re hooked. Your time is forfeit, and soon you’ll be chilling in your own palatial estate that was built with your own two nubs. I’ve spent hours in Minecraft just sitting in my mine and listening to the beautiful music that always seems to kick in at the most serene moment.


Katamari Damacy

I can never get mad at this game. Even when I’ve failed a mission and need to repeat it several times, I’m still cool as a cucumber rolling my little ball around and destroying Tokyo like the tiniest Godzilla. Getting to the best parts of Katamari can be a little annoying, but once you’ve graduated from rolling up erasers and mice to continents and celestial bodies, you’ve reached maximum gaming chillitude. Even just putting on the soundtrack while writing or laying down for a nap can zonk me out for hours. Try listening to this without your eyes getting heavy. And if Katamari‘s time-based mission structure is too much for you, check out the creator’s even more lax title, Noby Noby Boy.

Shoot Matt an email if you have an idea for something you’d like him to cover. What games send you into a trance? Let us know in the comments.