Calm and easy video games to help you chill out and switch off
Taking a break from the usual beauty product reviews, I thought that I’d share with you three of my favourite video games that I turn to when I just need to switch off and chill out for a bit! With many of us stuck indoors due to lockdowns, recent months have seen a huge increase in the number of ‘casual gamers’. This term, which I feel slightly ambivalent about, I suppose refers to those of us with a general interest in video games, but who lack the consoles or time to get into the big triple A releases.
Animal Crossing has taken the world by storm, with seemingly everyone from famous actors (Elijah Wood paid a visit to someone’s island) to politicians (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also played the tourist) getting on board the trend. But if you haven’t got it, or the right equipment to play it, you needn’t feel left out of the calming effect of a little gaming. These three games are all ones that my clunky, nearly a decade old computer (which I basically just use for blogging) can cope with. All you’ll need is a Microsoft account (which your teenage Hotmail e-mail should give you) and a Steam account (which is free). A lot of research has been done about what computer games do to our brains, and the potentially addictive way they offer an easy sense of achievement through (ultimately meaningless) rewards. It’s important to be conscious of just how many hours you’re sinking into a game – I am certainly guilty of starting playing and only emerging six hours later to eat. But the easy-going, free play style of these games should allow you to pop in and out as you please.
I hope you’ll enjoy reading about, and hopefully having a go at, three of the best relaxing video games!
This is a game that was first officially released in 2011, but has so successfully seeped into the culture that it feels as if it has been around a lot longer. The ultimate sandbox game, you can live a quietly productive life building and crafting, or take a more swashbuckling approach and spend your time exploring new lands and defeating monsters. The joy of Minecraft is that you can essentially make of it what you will. I tend to split my time between exploring and farming – equal parts climbing mountains and feeding chickens.
I play with ‘fancy graphics’ turned off, but there is still a surprising amount of visual interest for a game made up entirely of cubes. There is lore to learn and legendary objects to craft and find, or you can live a simple agrarian lifestyle. Chilled out music adds to the sense of calm, and if things ever get too much and you’re sick of fighting off ‘creepers’ and zombies, you can simply switch to peaceful mode and enjoy a few (Minecraft) days of quiet. The controls are incredibly easy to master, and a long series of updates have made crafting ever simpler, with a recipe book meaning you no longer have to commit hundreds of crafting instructions to memory in order to make the most of the game.
Of the games on this list Minecraft is probably the most creative, as you have complete free reign to design and build almost anything that comes into your head. People have constructed some amazing things in Creative Mode (including an accurate model of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN!), but don’t let this intimidate you. Simply sit back, relax, and place blocks to your heart’s content.
On the face of it this is simply a 2D clone of Minecraft. There are certainly some similarities, but there is more to this game than meets the eye. It lacks the animal farming element of Minecraft, but you can still craft and build almost anything you want. It has the sense of fun and humour of a classic side-scrolling adventure game, and you’d be surprised how exciting it can be exploring new territories when you can essentially only go left, right or down.
It is definitely more of an adventure game than Minecraft, with soft quests and goals to achieve. Or you can content yourself with just doing some mining and building a pleasing home. With lots of potions, clothes, tools and more to craft, there is enough content to fill literally hundreds of hours of gameplay. Themed events around holidays like Christmas and Halloween add some extra novelty, and help to complete a game that will easily keep you satisfied for weeks of indoor life. It has a charmingly retro and upbeat soundtrack too, which is always a bonus!
I had been eyeing this game up for literally months before I decided to buy it. I’d watched some streams of it (over at my favourite gaming YouTube channel, TripleJump) and knew that it would be a game I would need to try hard to resist getting addicted to. After a couple of weird months of lockdown and a generally stressful start to the year, I thought a simple farming game would be just what I needed, and finally allowed myself to buy it. I’m so glad I did, because it is honestly incredibly relaxing, and super cute. You can choose to play it in a completely peaceful way, with no peril whatsoever, and focus on building your farm, growing plants, and looking after animals. The narrative is unintrusive, and you can choose to develop friendships with the locals, or just leave them to their own devices.
A charming art style paired with a super chilled out soundtrack is the icing on the cake of a highly relaxing gaming experience. Ambient noises like birdsong, chicken clucks, and the sea make it also kind of meditative. It took me back to when we kept chickens in our garden! Playing this game does feel a bit like stepping into the shoes of Tom and Barbara in the classic BBC sitcom The Good Life. There is something strangely comforting about pottering around your farm greeting your animals and watering your plants. The plot centres around you escaping the drudgery of office work in the big city when you inherit your grandfather’s farm, and the game has a distinctly anti-corporation message. If farming was your favourite part of Minecraft, and you feel like removing yourself from capitalist society, if only for a few hours, this is the game for you.
What are your favourite video games to play when you need to leave the real world behind for a bit? I’d love to hear your recommendations in the comments!