I generally like games. Card games, board games, ball games, mind games, count me in. But I do not like video games. While I enjoy a nice slow game of Candy Crush or Words with Friends, I find that any game that requires me to drive, shoot, or score very quickly becomes stressful and incomprehensible.
My sons introduced me to a game called Rocket League — it’s basically cars playing soccer. The cars can climb up walls and use fancy power-ups in order to kick the ball and score goals. Or rather, my children’s cars can climb up walls and use fancy power-ups to kick the ball and score goals. My car can drive in nauseating circles, ultimately getting stuck upside down in my own goal. The game is 4 minutes long, and not only did I not kick the ball, but I also could not even find it.
Another video game we have been playing as a family is Among Us.
In Among Us, you are randomly assigned the role of Crewmate or Impostor. Crewmates must run around a spaceship completing tasks, and the impostor must kill the crewmates without being caught. If the crewmates guess who the impostor is before too many of them are dead, they win. If the impostor is successful in killing off the crewmates before they finish their tasks, he wins.
Unsurprisingly, I am not good at this game. No matter how sneaky I think I am as the impostor, I always get caught after my first kill.
My kids say things like “next time you’re the impostor you should close the door to Electrical and then vent to the upper Engine Room so no will see you near the body.”
To which I reply, “I was going to do exactly that because I fully understand and know what buttons to push to execute those actions, but then I saw a half-eaten slice of pizza in the cafeteria, and I started wondering if there was more pizza, somewhere. Like maybe in Navigation?”
“So you stopped playing with us so you could look for virtual food?”
“Yes, but now I see how perhaps I may have missed the point of this exercise.”
At the beginning of the round, crewmates are given a list of tasks — all you have to do to win is complete the tasks without dying. Now this, this is my game! Every morning I wake up, make a list of things I want to get done that day and try not to die before I’ve done them all! I have quite literally been training for this my whole life!
But it turns out that as a crewmate I become more focused on completing my to-do list than evading death. I know that someone is actively trying to kill me, and yet I think ‘I’m going to try and download those files in this completely unprotected location where I will likely be killed because that will just be one less task I have to do later.’ Shockingly, I am always the first to die.
But here’s the kicker — In Among Us, when you die, you become a ghost and you can then complete your tasks without anybody bothering you, and well, this is living the dream! Crossing things off my to-do list without contemplating my eventual slaughter because it has already occurred? Yes, please!
Last week, in real life, I had a necessary but tedious task to do at work. It was the kind of repetitive, mind-numbing work that usually makes one start to calculate how long it might be until retirement, or until snack time. And yet, strangely, as I sat at my computer for hours, I felt calm, relaxed, and even happy. And then it hit me — I was doing mundane tasks, and no one was trying to kill me! Bliss! What more could a crewmate want?
Among Us is the updated version of that old story where the man complains to the Rabbi about his noisy home, and the rabbi suggests he first bring the chickens inside the house, and then the cows. When it becomes too much for the man, the rabbi tells him to put all the animals back outside, and his formerly chaotic house now seems calm and peaceful.
Among Us says, You think doing your job is hard? Try doing it while a maniacal killer is loose in your spaceship! 2021 says, You think your life is hard? Try doing it while a maniacal killer is loose on your planet!
So all we have to do is remove the maniacal killers from our midsts so we can go back to doing our tasks in peace! I don’t need to have a job that is constantly fascinating, I just want to work without being interrupted by home and ‘home’ without being interrupted by work. I want to live in a world where I can lick my fingers to open the bags in the grocery store. I want to go back to a simpler time where I could eat cookies with reckless abandon. I’m down to merely eating them with abandon — it’s just not smart to be reckless during a pandemic.
But lately, something concerning has crossed my mind — what if Among Us is rooted in reality, and after we die and become ghosts (because this is a given) we are still expected to pull our weight and get things done? Is there no rest for the weary?
And this is why I play Candy Crush — it brings up zero existential issues about the quality of the afterlife. But it does make me hungry. Excuse me while I vent to the Cafeteria to scope out that leftover pizza.