Sus­tain­able Sys­tems

What do camp­ing hol­i­days, Sim life­spans and as­ter­oid colonies have in com­mon?

PCPOWERPLAY - - Opinion - MEGHANN O’NEILL did spend some time watch­ing her kids play Ter­raria in the tent, for that elu­sive gam­ing fix.

Re­cently, we put tents in the trailer and drove to Air­lie Beach, and back, over four weeks. I haven’t played games for this long since 2005, when I was trav­el­ing around the world. In my nor­mal life, I some­times go a day or two with­out games. Maybe. What did I learn from my PC-free month? Firstly, it’s hard to see platy­puses in the wild, but pos­si­ble. Se­condly, that driv­ing past lots of houses gives me an ir­re­press­ible urge to play The Sims.

Ev­ery time I de­cide to play The Sims, there is a new ex­pan­sion pack. It’s tra­di­tion. And con­ve­nient. But, did you know, for play­ers like me who are chronic restarters and mi­cro­man­agers, you can turn a Sim’s life­span to “long”? I should have done this years ago. It’s re­lax­ing, like be­ing on hol­i­day. You can ac­tu­ally re­alise your most out­landish goals quite com­fort­ably, like fish­ing-tofer­tilise-plants-to-cook-meals.

As such, the new Par­ent­hood ex­pan­sion is great, but it’s im­pos­si­ble to be a per­fec­tion­ist-player and sin­gle par­ent, if tod­dlers age up at their usual rate. (I usu­ally get adult Sims knocked up by pass­ing town­ies to avoid tak­ing time out of their over­whelm­ing sched­ules to form re­la­tion­ships.) You even have in­flu­ence over chil­dren’s core val­ues which be­come ex­tra traits at the adult age tran­si­tion, good and bad. There is much more de­tail here, so more time to ex­plore it makes sense. Like let­ting the kids spend an ex­tra day at the Bund­aberg Ginger Beer mu­seum.

What I most learned from hol­i­days and Sim­ming, how­ever, is that I re­ally like game sys­tems which rely on small in­puts and out­puts, while evolv­ing and im­prov­ing from within. Like play­ing Sims who source all their own food and

tempt­ing to give ev­ery­one their own bed­room, not just the repli­cants who snore

make their chil­dren neu­roticly per­fect. And, like our camper trailer, where you have to buy food from a su­per­mar­ket, but have ev­ery­thing else you need to set your­self up for the night and cook a meal. It’s a cheap and ef­fi­cient way to travel that you get more and more com­fort­able in, over time, play­ing games, sleep­ing well etc.

This is why Oxy­gen Not In­cluded also had me hooked this week, in my posthol­i­day state. You should play it, for the gamer’s ver­sion of hard­core camp­ing, with­out ac­tu­ally hav­ing to get en­tan­gled in a sleep­ing bag. In fact, you start with three repli­cants and only a near-empty ra­tion box. Then, you have to scout the nearby area and as­sess how you can use re­sources to de­velop a colony.

The ini­tial oxy­gen boon is one of the game’s few free­bies, like free wash­ing pow­der at a car­a­van park. You’ll soon need to cre­ate machines or use an al­gae ter­rar­ium to con­vert carbon diox­ide, which tends to col­lect at the bot­tom of the colony. Ev­ery new ob­ject, from out­house to power plant, needs to be re­searched by repli­cants, who im­prove by do­ing all tasks. My favourite mo­ments oc­cur when you start hav­ing the per­son-power to make art, show­ers and ac­cou­trements which go be­yond mere sur­vival, to prove that this closed sys­tem can grow.

An­other com­pelling idea is to stop pok­ing your sys­tem, to see if it re­ally is work­ing in­def­i­nitely. Where is the per­fect bal­ance found? It can be tempt­ing to give ev­ery­one their own bed­room, not just the repli­cants who snore, and dec­o­rate them with beau­ti­ful sculp­tures, but then you need more re­sources to make and main­tain the space. Is it cool that you have enough Mush Bars to eat, if they cause di­ar­rhea? How fancy, and com­pli­cated, do you want food pro­duc­tion to be? I’ve been able to find “sta­ble” points, but not at the more elab­o­rate end of colony build­ing.

ONI is still in early ac­cess and, as such, I’d usu­ally avoid it. But there’s some­thing ex­cit­ing about jump­ing into games with a glut of statis­tics early, be­fore there are so many of them you have to dis­re­gard most in or­der to even start. The game is very sim­i­lar to RimWorld in many as­pects of man­age­ment, the one dif­fer­ence be­ing that you’re firmly en­closed and out­side help, or de­struc­tion, isn’t com­ing. (At least yet.) Hav­ing said this, there are crea­tures to fight or do­mes­ti­cate, and new re­sources to find in fur­ther flung re­gions.

So, I would like to thank Oxy­gen Not In­cluded for eas­ing me back into post-hol­i­day life and re­view­ing games. I did ac­tu­ally en­joy the sense of time­less­ness, with­out re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and out­side pres­sure, like the long life­span op­tion in The Sims, even with­out my PC. Camp­ing and ONI are a bit sim­i­lar, too, whether it’s re­al­is­ing that how you deal with waste is an im­por­tant en­vi­ron­men­tal con­sid­er­a­tion or tak­ing earplugs to off­set the snor­ing in your tent. Sys­tems which ap­proach self-sus­tain­abil­ity are some­thing that in­trigue me, both in life and in games.

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