Casual Gamer Club

Welcome to the first meeting of the CGC, the Casual Gamer Club. This is a club for those of us taking a casual approach to playing the game of existence-on-Earth. First of all, I’d like to welcome any new members. And if any outsiders are wondering if you too might be a casual gamer, I’ll take this time to list some of our attributes.

1. Lack of involvement.
Volunteers? Nope, not us.
Groups or affiliations? None.
Careers? Ha, no.
Families? Kinda, but only the bare-minimum.
Friends? Maybe one.

2. Lack of role-playing.
We wince at the idea of “pretending” or “playing along”. We typically avoid most forms of highly-structured interaction. We have no clue about our lines or which dialog fits which situation. Because of our lack of in-depth study, we can’t improvise.

3. Lack of feelings.
We don’t feel much, unless watching a highly choreographed emotion-inducing movie perhaps. We lack a sense of spiritual significance — in other words, we get no sense of awe or wonder from being in the world. We really only perceive the shallow stuff — after all, casual gaming is all about a less-in-depth approach.

4. Lack of long-term plans.
We pretty much just go with the flow — letting life happen. And because life honors the casual gaming approach, we’re allowed to skate through for the most part. Of course, as you can see by all that we lack, we don’t get a lot of the benefits that in-depth players get.

And to note: I can understand how this type of existence is completely foreign to any hard-core Earthers out there. But don’t judge bro, you have your way of playing, this just happens to be our way of playing. You guys are truly dedicated to your craft and we really appreciate the effort you put into your gameplay. Obviously we’re a boring bunch that relies on your showmanship for our entertainment — but you get an audience that’s not busy living their own lives — so it’s win win really.

I mean yeah, in one sense we’re lazy, I get that. But in an epic fantasy role-playing game, not everyone wants to be balls-to-the-wall gung-ho go-get-um — ya know? Some of us don’t care enough to dedicate years to learning the esoteric minutia that comes with acting-out an in-depth role. Some of us just want the front-row seats that existence provides — it doesn’t mean we want to actively participate.

So that’s us in a nutshell, the members of the Casual Gamer Club. I shall close today’s meeting with a haiku-style poem:

Going to the pool.
Much fun in the shallow end.
Splash, but not too much.

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Casual Gamer

I’m more of a casual gamer when it comes to video-games. I kinda saunter in, mash a few buttons, do my thing, then go about my day. I don’t like to over-strategize, learn about in-depth secrets, or practice to the point of mastery — who cares. Get in, have some fun, get out.

And as a casual gamer, it sucks when you find yourself within a game that contains a lot of depth — all you wanna do is blow sh*t up but this game wants you to learn all its esoteric secrets. You want to quickly figure out which button does what and start blastin’. Woohoo!! But in a game that requires more information-gathering and thought, you’re like “Huh!? WTF is going on here!!? I don’t get it!”

Well welcome to life my friend. I think I signed-up for Earth after watching all the crazy trailer-footage of explosions and excitement, but the actual gameplay turned out to be nothing like I expected. It’s slow and meandering and its intensity is displayed on a whole different level. And the controls — are just nuts — I still don’t get what I’m supposed to do.

I’m several decades into my current game and I’m still goin’ casual btw. F*ck that in-depth stuff, I ain’t into role-playing bullsh*t. Of course, as a casual gamer in an epic fantasy role-playing game, I spend most of my time NOT interacting with other players. “Greetings fellow traveller, I present to you 8 golden-ingots of the under-realm that I laboriously farmed by way of participation in the leather-guild.” NOPE.

I realize that I’m the one missing out. I get it. Pick a role and play it out. But it just seems so phony and goofy. When I see uniforms for example, I see kids playing dress-up for the day and I’m the adult sitting over to the side, babysitting — and if I have to interact with the scene in front of me, I do so mockingly. I can’t seem to drop my guard and genuinely play along.

But such is life as a casual gamer. Ironically, I think watching gameplay-footage on YouTube is stupid, but that’s essentially what I spend my time doing i.e. watching gameplay footage of Earth-gamers. But actual gameplay footage of an Earth-gamer playing a video-game is just too meta for me I guess.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I manage to enjoy myself here. I sit and commentate on life and all its silliness. I engage in the easy stuff: like eating, watching videos on the Internet, hangin’ out with my friend, writin’ this blog. It’s cool. My biggest worry was that one day life would be like: “Okay, you’ve had plenty of time to prepare, now you’re on your own! Good luck!” Thankfully, that never happened. Life apparently honors the role of casual gamer. Thanks life — I truly appreciate that.

Earthly Explanation

Okay so you’re alive, what have you gotten yourself into? First of all, welcome to Earth. Unfortunately, you’ll be unable to remember much of this explanation as your capacity to retain input has been greatly reduced for the duration of your visit. This is on purpose of course, or else the sensation of immersion would not feel as complete. Sorry for the late explanation, but that’s also by design (same reasoning). And as you’ve probably noticed, you regularly experience sleep, this also helps you forget and reset for the oncoming day. You have to be handicapped in certain ways so you’ll feel like you’re a part of this world.

If you haven’t caught on already, this world is a fabricated experience — but that’s a good thing. We’ve received many complaints about the world feeling “too real” and we tend to take those as compliments. Basically, none of what you’re experiencing actually exists, it’s more of a computer-simulation of sorts. So all that gloomy/gory stuff simply isn’t there, which is why we don’t bother adjusting the realness-factor. At the end of the day it’s just flickering-pixels. Yes, some participants become frightened beyond their comfort-levels, but for us, it’s immersion-first. We take pride in the creation of a ride so convincing that you actually feel like a genuine embodied being. Trust us, if we did it any other way, the world wouldn’t be believable and you’d be bored.

After all, that’s the entire point of Earth: the simulation of a limited life for your enjoyment. Things are supposed to die here, that’s something new you get to experience. And not only do you experience limitations on your lifespan, but on your knowledge and creative capacity as well. That’s right, you get to be an incapable dummy. Ha! Enjoy it while it lasts! Haha! But seriously, the reason I’ve contacted you today is to check-in and make sure things are to your liking. Again, we do get our share of complaints, but we try to rectify them when we can. Let me start by going over some general concepts and controls in case you haven’t figured them out already.

This is sort of a game/movie hybrid. The path your character is following is found swirling around in your thoughts. It’s a combination of all those meaningful feelings, impulses, and inspirational ideas that are spurring you to do some things while avoiding others. Again, because of the necessity for immersion, the roadmap isn’t obvious — you have to kinda decipher it on the fly. No big deal though, it’s self-correcting for the most part — you’ll get there.

And as far as the controls and the gaming aspect, it’s not really what you’re used to in terms of conventional video-games. It’d be kinda silly if you simply had to move your character along an XYZ-axis with a joystick and press a jump-button now and again. Essentially with any video-game, the actual mechanics boil down to a player aligning with the character by way of the controls. So what you actually control doesn’t matter as much as the ability to sync with the gameplay over time with repeated practice.

In other words, the player learns and adapts to the timing of the game. In a traditional video-game, when an obstacle arrives, the player moves into the appropriate position and presses the jump button. Through practice over time, the player aligns himself with the game until he’s able to navigate with relative ease. In short, the player learns to identify obstacles and react appropriately. And that brings us back to Earth, where you the player, must identify obstacles and react appropriately.

But in Earth, the obstacles aren’t so obvious. Like I mentioned, this game goes beyond the simple XYZ-axis stuff. Spoiler Alert: for the most part, your character is on auto-pilot. And like I also mentioned, the path you’re on is basically pre-programmed. So what do you, the player actually get to do? Haha. Well first, you get to experience the exciting spectacle that-is-life from a front-row seat, that’s pretty cool in and of itself of course. As for game mechanics, it kinda goes like this:

Buttons and switches are passe at this point — you can’t control anything directly or it would kill the sensation of immersion, plus you’re handicapped all the way down to complete-noob status — you wouldn’t know what you’re doing anyway. So everything you-the-player can do is mental — it’s all in the mind. It’s not the things your character does per se, it’s the way in which you react to what he does — that’s what you control. But make no mistake, you do have the power to impede your character’s progress on his path — you can definitely sabotage yourself if that suits your fancy.

To delve a little deeper into why you can’t simply steer your own character, just think of all the external circumstances that would need to coordinate amongst billions of beginner-level players attempting to manually control their characters — that’s insane to even contemplate — so of course things are primarily coordinated on everyone’s behalf. Just imagine all those cars on the roads — of course they’re on a system-controlled auto-pilot.

But anyways, I was discussing obstacles. Obstacles literally get in your way, and you’ll typically pump the brakes when they do. But if you hit those brakes, then you pause on your path. And although it seems logical to stop, that’s actually the wrong approach. The correct procedure is NOT to pump your brakes, you’re supposed to TRUST the path you’re on and follow it to fruition. Then why do you even have the option to brake? Well it comes back to immersion again (of course).

Picture this, you’re playing an old-fashioned video-game in which your car is driving straight down an endless road. You can wiggle the steering-wheel back-and-forth and press a brake-pedal. If not for that wiggle-room and the ability to brake, you wouldn’t feel as though you’re playing a game, it’d be a read-only video instead. In other words, having a little wiggle-room and the ability to brake turns your life into a game that provides the sensation of being in control — which ultimately, you do have control of — unfortunately, that control is in the form of a kill-switch.

So let’s examine a braking example. Imagine that you have an innate desire to go down a particular path. Someone comes along and says “Hey, don’t go that way!” and then you start thinking, “Oh? Okay I won’t! Whew! That was a close one.” In this scenario, you met an obstacle and you pumped the brakes. Oops — you were supposed to continue along your merry way despite the obstacle. That’s the game mechanics you’re trying to sync with: something will happen and your reaction should be to keep on truckin’.

Here’s a less obvious example. Imagine someone says, “Hey let’s go do this activity that you don’t wanna do!” and then you start thinking, “Huh, this feels wrong to me, but my buddy really wants me to do it, maybe I should. You know what, I’ll do it! I’ll force myself if I have to!” In this scenario, you pumped the brakes on your path again. By going against your innate feelings (your roadmap), you halted your progression. Again, you were supposed to jump the hurdle and proceed on your path.

Don’t worry though, you’ll get it. What game worth playing doesn’t take repeated practice to get right? And now that you know a bit more about what’s going on here, perhaps things will go smoother for ya. Always keep in mind that this game was designed with your amusement in mind, not to scare or punish or any nonsense like that. Hey and when you’re done, don’t forget to rate and leave a review. We’re really proud of what we’ve put together here and your kind words go a long way.

Review Section

Do end-users have a legitimate reason to complain about Earth?

Not everyone is good at playing every game. If you complain about a game to a player that’s good, he’ll scoff and tell you that you haven’t given the game a chance or you need more dedication. But not everyone has that kinda drive to devote to a difficult game.

Are most problems just noob issues that get sorted out with time? Or are there legit issues beyond beginner ignorance? Should these be addressed? Or do users even have the right to complain about a game they haven’t paid for? Maybe they should shut-up if they don’t like it? Is the game really free? Does it rely heavily on user-generated content? Are users themselves to blame? Is quitting really an option? Are complaints even addressed?

From my particular perspective, I’ve found Earth difficult to navigate. It rarely does what I want. But is that simply a misunderstanding of the interface? Well too bad I wasn’t provided with intuitive controls or an instruction manual. Is obfuscation simply part of the charm? Well I think controller-confusion is a legitimate complaint.

I’ve also found Earth too intense, my character’s too sensitive and I feel bombarded by stimuli. Yes I’ve had a relatively easy time externally, but internally I’ve been an anxious wreck. What was that!!!?? Oh. So I think over-sensitivity is another complaint. If I’m generating content from this perspective, it’s gonna suck, just sayin.

I’ve also found Earth a bit too open-ended. What the heck am I supposed to be doing? Start me off with some sort of quest perhaps — and make it obvious. It’s ridiculous the amount of time I just sit around doing nothing. So that’s another complaint: lack of goals to complete.

Yes, all those complaints could be noob issues, I’m aware of that. But that’s a legit problem then: the lack of beginner-friendly game-play. Some people are casual gamers, not grizzled hardcore elites that eat and breathe this stuff. Let me zone-out for awhile watching some in-game entertainment and then blip-in here and there, crushing whatever I come across. If this place is so great, why not make it easier?

Did I accidentally select hard-mode, over-estimating my skills? Um, that’s possible. But an even better game would adjust according to my ability. I’m in the need for some cheat-codes or power-ups right about now. Anytime devs!! Am I just bad at gaming? I didn’t think so, but apparently I am.

Oh and the matchmaking system sucks by the way. I found ONE person I legit like and they were literally born on the opposite side of the globe. I was hangin’ around for two decades in relative isolation before we met up. Again, maybe I’m the a-hole noob that has no idea what he’s doing, I get it — but I think a better ally/friend system could be devised.

Listen, this is an impressive game, no doubt. And if you’re balls-to-the-wall about it, you’ll love it and do great. But if you’re a filthy casual like myself, then it’s gonna kinda suck. It’s just too difficult and kinda dumb — character hygiene takes up a prominent portion for example — how exciting: time to shower, fix my hair, and brush my teeth — again. I’ll update this review if there’s an awesome turn-of-events that ends up surprising me — otherwise 2/5 stars. Sorry devs, I’m just not talented enough to play apparently.

Virtual Free Will

If life is an RPG (role-playing game), what about free-will? Because it’s a game, there’s a bunch of preset missions customized for each character. And like a game, characters are of a particular type traveling an appropriate path. RPGs tend to lead characters to the correct checkpoints at the right times. Once at the checkpoint, the player can decide whether to cross or not — but if he doesn’t cross, he’s not allowed to do anything significant, he stalls and becomes depressed.

So as to maintain the illusion of control, life does allow mistakes to be made. In other words, if you try to break something, it’ll break. So yes, recklessness is possible and will likely cause your character to experience some unpleasantness. Manual-control provides the most immersive sensation possible and greatly amplifies the gaming experience — but the drawback is, you can derail your narrative.

But to remain on the rails, it’s not skill that’s necessary, it’s trust in your story — faith. Our character knows what he’s doing, it’s our consciousness that’s completely clueless. Characters are best on autopilot, it’s manual-control and mental-intervention that gets in the way, causing our character to trip over himself. It’s impossible to mentally control the complex process of existence.

Then were does free-will fit in? We enter with a preset personality and an appropriate set of goals that must be accomplished. But we do have consent in the sense that we can refuse to cross each finish-line. Our refusals come from fear or an immature devotion to an ideal. The game doesn’t force us into the next step if we’re not ready to handle it. But again, it’s not a skillset issue, it’s a trust issue — our character can handle it, it’s our consciousness that hinders.

Ultimately the game wants us to win — win in the sense that we engage enjoyably with the world we’re in. If at anytime we derail our narrative, the game is always patient and graciously waits to welcome us back. Our acceptance comes in the form of active-pursuit of the goal. We must head in its direction, doing whatever we’re inspired to do, not filled with doubt and trepidation.

Role Playing Game

At this stage, life seems most like a role-playing game (RPG), where I’m playing as a particular character-type within a specific narrative. Disclaimer: I don’t have a lot of experience with actual RPGs. There’s a bunch of preset goals that must be accomplished — and the game will lead me to those points the best it can. I think there’s time between the checkpoints where I can screw around and do whatever, but eventually the time comes to cross each finish-line.

I think this RPG does a lot of hand-holding and leads me through without much effort or necessary knowledge on my part. The resources just show up when needed, ideas just form in my head, and any skills I perform are released at the appropriate time for my character. Easy peasy. Like any game though, the most difficult part is syncing with the rhythm of the action (e.g. pressing JUMP at the right time, etc).

But in this game, in which I’m supposed to be on autopilot most of the time, “syncing” has to do with not getting in my own way. In other words, my character functions fine without mental intervention. When I attempt to manually-control and think my way through a task, I trip over myself. The game allows manual-control because that provides the most immersive sensation possible — otherwise it’d feel too much like a scripted movie.

Yet I seem to be taking the game too seriously — the total-immersion scares the heck outta me. I really feel like a fragile little creature crawling around a big rock attempting to survive while surrounded by impending doom — it’s a bit overwhelming. Because of that, I find it very difficult to trust and let go. And even though it’s impossible to mentally control such a complex process, I keep trying to do so.

Relatedly, I think I’m required to actively and purposefully cross each checkpoint. I can stall all I want — I shouldn’t, but I can. This is probably where people typically screwup their narratives — by resisting their story due to fear or an immature devotion to an ideal. If you’re not prepared for the next step, why would the game force it on you — so you’re stuck right where you are, stalled and depressed.

I suppose acceptance comes in the form of active-pursuit of the goal. I must head in its direction, doing whatever I’m inspired to do, not filled with doubt and trepidation. I have to have faith in my story. When I do stall, I think the game often forces a change in perspective by applying so much negative pressure that I’m basically forced to give up and let go. I could continue denying the change, but at my detriment of course.

Video-games are most fun when they stretch our abilities yet allow us to win in the end. I think this game really wants me to win. I was confused and overwhelmed at first, caught off-guard by the intensity, but as my perspective broadens, I can see the underlying entertainment-value of it all.

Game Pace

If I play a game very conservatively, trying to manage my damage, then it’s not very fun, especially if I’m taken out abruptly by something unexpected — all that caution and care for naught. But if I play a game too carelessly, dauntlessly rushing in with guns blazing, then it’s over too quickly, I never get to experience any depth of gameplay.

So there’s a balance to be had. I have to pace myself. But it’s difficult to pace oneself unless you know what you’re up against — how difficult are the challenges and where’s the finish line? An easy game allows you to adjust to conditions as they become known. A hard game doesn’t tolerate mistakes, but expects you to adapt to its conditions by repeatedly playing from the start.

A lot of games depend on players playing them over and over — you win some, you lose some. Whereas some games are open-ended and meander along with rules and victory-conditions that are more malleable. Maybe life is all things to all people, perhaps for some it’s a harsh game with zero tolerance for error — perhaps for others it’s an open-ended stroll through a lighthearted landscape.

It seems as though we place these conditions on ourselves. From early on I used to take the game-of-life oh so seriously, setting many limits on what I could do, believing in harsh consequences for mistakes. But now that I’ve dismissed all that super-seriousness, I’m surviving just the same. Life was only as hard as I believed it to be.

As for pacing, maybe life adjusts to whatever amount we’re willing to give. If we’re in it for the long-haul, then we have a long life with a detailed narrative to match. If we’re here for high-intensity then BOOM, we’ll get it. Like every game though, we likely play again and again, perhaps selecting different perspectives each time.

What’s frustrating about a game is not usually the game itself, but our insistence on a particular outcome. If our goal is to simply enjoy the game no matter how it proceeds, then there’s not much to stress about. But yeah, it sometimes takes maturity and creativity to figure out how to extract the fun from a certain point-of-view.