Don’t Starve: Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone

Comfort Zone

I passed by this sign walking through town the other day. I liked the message – it was an exhortation to keep pushing yourself and not to go slack the moment things get rough. Taking a rest now and again is okay, even essential, but we should never stay there very long. There’s too much to do, too much to see, too much life to live and things to learn. To truly live is to be challenged and to change – staying where it’s safe and familiar is simply existing.

It’s one of the reasons that games are important. Games are a safe place to learn about the world, its systems, and ourselves. They let us practice at being human, whatever we interpret that to mean. They change us, shape us, hopefully for the better.

But they don’t always. A game can also leave you where you are, free to act on your own impulses, running on autopilot. It’s a comfortable state of mind, and games that indulge it tend to value self-directed play above all else. But should we be celebrating life within your comfort zone? Because without a little prodding, that’s where we tend to stay, content to lay about, wrapped up in who we already are. Too often, we prefer existing to living. And that way lies boredom, stagnation, and dormancy. In order to keep us from that self-inflicted state, a game’s design needs to intervene. Continue reading