Tag Archives: mobile games

Finding Joy in Your Leisure

This might sound obvious, but… it can be easier to lose track of than it seems.

It can be easy to confuse an activity that you tend to enjoy, with always enjoying that activity no matter what you’re doing.

I’ve had to confront this concept several times lately. First up was in video gaming.

I wrote a while back that I was trying to decide on a game to play, because I was feeling the itch to play some video games and had not played much in a while. I had beaten Deus Ex Mankind Divided and then played a good amount of Mass Effect Andromeda but not much since. I toyed around with a lot of thoughts, but finally decided that my best option was probably just to power through Mass Effect Andromeda to beat it.

However, after playing a bit, I realized that I was really just going through the motions. System-wise, I’m so powerful every fight is just blasting through things. I’ve already turned up the difficulty once. By allowing you to learn all the abilities in the game, it lets you become just so good that the fights aren’t the point.

So then, the point is the relationships and conversation, right? But I’m continually amazed at how shallow some of the relationships have ended up, as in I just expect more conversation topics, more things to pop up. I started a relationship with Vetra, and it has been thoroughly bland. For a game with a ton in it, honestly it needs even more. At least my twin is finally awake…

I’ll get back to the game at some point and beat it, I imagine. Knowing that there won’t be any DLC – when the DLC in the previous Mass Effect games were some of the best parts, is disheartening. And knowing there won’t be a sequel. Those were the sorts of things that kept me going and kept me re-playing before, but now I just don’t know.

Basically, playing the game felt like it was me just playing to play a game at all, the action of which is not where I find joy. I don’t just play video games – I play video games I enjoy. Sometimes we have to push ourselves to get through parts we don’t like, things like that, but the game at its core needs to make you happy, or else why are you playing?

To answer the question what to play, I bought XCom 2 as the price dropped to a great spot. I’ve been loving it – they captured the feel of the first game, with some good improvements and changes both in system and thematically. It’s also a good one to pick up for a bit, do a mission, and put back down – fitting my life nicely at the moment.

The other thing I had been doing was some mobile gaming, in this case Magic the Gathering: Puzzle Quest. I don’t think I’ve fully written up a review, but it’s a pretty fun one. It’s free to play but they would love to sell you the in-game currencies, which you can use to buy both Planeswalkers – your avatar – or card packs. You also get cards slowly over time, and the currencies over time and from playing. There was definitely some learning curve; there are some elements that are automated and ordered for the computer to handle, so then you have to figure out control of the interface so that things play out like you intend. This is also the computer AI’s weakness in the game, as it tends to let things flow and there are several types of actions it does not take.

If I were to give a new player advice, it would be that there is a set of tutorial games in the Story section, not as the first option in those but by swiping to the side. Play through those, they not only teach you a lot of things (some of which I had learned or looked up online by the time I found the trainings, and some which I learned then), but they give you some free cards. If I were to give a second piece of advice, it’s join a coalition.

I actually started thinking of this post a while back when I was realizing that what I had reached a point of doing in this game was grinding dailies. There are Events which come up on a continual basis, you play games to gain rank, get currencies, get booster packs, and rank against other players for top rewards. The rewards are all great, but the continual basis of these coming up means you could just every day have a ton of this to play. I had fallen into playing every possible game in these Events (there’s a limiting factor of how many games you get to play, and which color of decks), and was staying up late playing the game like crazy, basically not realizing how much time I was putting into it.

Into grinding dailies.

I was getting close to cutting myself off completely, when the friend who got me into the game invited me to join a coalition he was joining. It’s a group of up to 20 players, who get a chat channel, and who have access to the occasional coalition events. These have great rewards, and you get rewards both from how you do and from how your coalition as a whole does. Some other events also include coalition points, but not all of them.

And this has helped me to cool down on my playing, to slow down. To not just play all of the dailies. I can focus instead on the events that include coalition play, but not stress myself, keep myself up at night, or just generally get distracted and play the game like crazy. Mobile games can do that, and it’s important to temper yourself. Many are also built to be a time filler that you can pour too much time into. I think I’ve found a good balance, by doing some stuff that’s fun and has a group feel to it, and to skipping some of the solo stuff that was just me feeding the game my time.

Because it’s not just about the act of playing, it’s about enjoying playing.

There are plenty of other things I could talk about. Quitting listening to podcasts that I don’t like, just because they’re on the topics I’m interested in. Really, I haven’t been reading enough lately to have an example here – though I will say, MtG Puzzle Quest is a decent game to play while listening to an audiobook!

But let’s just go with one other topic.

It’s been a bit since I’ve written a long form post here on the site, which maybe that fact alone ties back to my topic here. A lot of what I do, and have been doing since we moved to the new Comparative Geeks last year, is back-end work on the site: scheduling posts, putting podcasts together, these sorts of things. Those take up a lot of time where I could be creating instead, and they’re just plain not as fun as creating.

And it’s important to remember that something like this site is a side-project for us, not a job or a money maker. It’s a labor of love, and therefore it’s important that you love doing it. Holly and I have made it through by helping each other as we’ve waxed and waned in interest, we’ve kept the dream alive.

So while we’re about to take a long hiatus, I think that absence will do a lot to make the heart fonder. We haven’t taken a break this long before, but I think we’ll be back strong. We also have been planning on moving back to WordPress dot com, where there would be less behind the scenes management to worry about.


Remember that your leisure should be fun. I’ll try to do the same!

Trexels – Star Trek Casual Gaming

I don’t mind saying I’m a casual gamer. In fact, I just did a few weeks ago when I reviewed High School Story. When I browse through Star Trek games, a description listing “explore new worlds, fight battles, assign officers, build your own ship,” and all that can actually put me off. I still want to play those games, but they sound like work when I want relaxation, or a huge time commitment that I can’t make on a daily basis. So, when I found Trexels, I knew I wanted to give it a try — It’s basically a Star Trek version of simple sim/building games like High School Story or Farmville, made by YesGnome LLC.

Trexels ship building

The game is very clear and guided at the beginning, and you mostly choose from options rather than completely designing from scratch, but there’s some flexibility in your assignment of officers and order of missions. (Plus it’s a mobile game, so of course it’s designed to be relatively simple, easy to pick up and put down). Your time is split between constructing rooms in your ship, which give you resources and abilities, and going on exploratory missions. There’s a pretty interesting game mechanic where battles, negotiations, and scientific studies all involve quickly tapping on glowing cubes randomly strewn across the screen in order to power up your weapon/diplomacy/research. It gets more complicated as the game goes on and you accumulate more abilities, although the mechanic stays the same.(And I should mention there’s an option to battle other gamers’ starships, but I don’t play that much because I’m not good at it.)

Those quests/missions are my favorite part, because they most closely resemble Star Trek episodes, and I love the way they incorporate original series sound effects and incidental music (plus occasionally the voice of George Takei). The interface has a colorful Next Generation feel to it, though. The whole game is an odd but fun conglomeration of all the shows, beginning with TOS-style characters and slowly incorporating those from later eras, including your own choices and VIP characters from the shows. The characters show a variety of Star Trek races and human skin tones, and “dating” isn’t a concern, so I’m satisfied with the diversity available.

Trexels TNG characters

As the game progresses it takes a lot of grinding for resources between missions, so that’s my least favorite part, but it’s certainly doable without spending real money. There are also too many screens for each activity, specifically reward screens showing how many resources you just got that seem to take forever. And despite the general guided quality early in the game, I would have liked a little more instruction on how to use officers. You need a bridge crew, but then you also have a list of unassigned officers you can send on away missions, and each officer has their own advantages and disadvantages plus skill points.

I definitely wish I could get resources more quickly and do more missions, but on the whole, I’ve very much enjoyed Trexels and the style of directed gameplay it offers. It’d be a great choice for anyone wanting a casual Star Trek game. I think it’s whetted my appetite for the more advanced Trek games though, so leave any title recommendations in the comments!

High School Story: The Best in Casual Gaming

I’ve been playing High School Story for almost three years now, and it’s still one of my all-time favorites. A cross between a choose-your-own-adventure story game and a town simulator, it’s an extremely well-done casual game from Pixelberry Studios, free to play on Apple and Android devices. (I play on my Kindle Fire to get a bigger screen, but it works fine on a phone too).

High School Story has two distinguishing characteristics: First, it’s inclusive. Default characters arrive in a variety of skin tones, and when you send characters on dates, they can go with characters of the same or the other gender. One prominent default character has a disability, and a lot of storylines are written to raise awareness for organizations like Girls Who Code or groups that help people with eating disorders. (All the characters are built on the same body type and there’s limited gender nonconformity, but if you start playing the game and you want more options I encourage you to write Pixelberry and say so.) You work with a mixture of standard game characters, plus the ones you’ve created in a wide range of personality types or cliques — these go from basics like “nerd” and “jock” to more complex combinations like “rock climber” and “DJ” as you progress into the game, so I don’t find that particularly problematic.


The second distinctive thing about HSS is the excellent writing. You have a lot of leeway to create characters, pick outfits and build your school, but the main activities are chains of quests in a few different styles. Some are long and encompass your whole school in a more intense storyline, others are short-term or seasonal, and there’s also a running chain of quests where you help different classmates with their problems. You can get very involved with the standard characters, but you also get enough leeway to create your own mental personalities for your own people, and the fun comes in choosing the right characters for each stage of a story. It’s not completely choose-your-own-adventure, because your choices don’t significantly change the outcome of a quest, but somehow the writing gets you involved and almost never contradicts whatever mental image you’ve built up of your school.

You have the option to spend actual money on resources, mainly rings (which are used to purchase special quests and items). You may have to grind a little to get gems in-game, but it’s perfectly doable and if you’re not into outfits, you may never want vast numbers of rings. You can also just run out of stuff to do too soon sometimes, and there aren’t a whole lot of options in the game if you just want to kill time, although you can always reclothe all your characters or move your decorations around. However, that can equally be a plus, if you want a distraction with a built-in time limit. (I love to play while I study. I can play, read for thirty minutes while I wait for a quest to finish, play some more, read while I wait…)


I’ve gotten several friends to play, and the only real problems we’ve had with the game or gameplay have been associated with backups and losing progress. There’s an option now to link your Google+ account to save online — I think it used to just be Facebook, although I’m not sure — and I also recommend only playing when your device is connected to the internet. You can theoretically play offline and sync up later, but I lost several months of progress doing that last year so I don’t anymore!

If you have any interest in casual simulator games, High School Story is definitely worth a try. And if you’re not sure, HSS would be a great place to start! Let me know in the comments if you’ve played it before, and feel free to recommend other casual games!