by Colin Spacetwinks
Having the money to buy a horse is not something I could imagine for myself. Never mind several quality race horses, or a high-quality ranch to train and raise those horses. I’m playing pretend on several levels here—most blatantly, playing pretend in finances. It’s hard to imagine myself ever at a point where I’m not playing pretend with this kind of money.
But the kind of pretend that really sticks out here is that of management, of control. Of being able to defeat my own executive dysfunction, sit down, and stick to a schedule, without the stress of falling behind, without the anxiety that I'm forgetting something important. Or that I'm not up to the task of what I'm being asked to do, even when that thing is as massive as handling a crew of thousand-pound mammals, and their home.
Many games play into these fantasies of control, but the relatively small scale of Kairosoft's Pocket Stables, and the schedule it has for me to follow, gives me a different sense of fulfillment than I would get with SimCity or other sims. Even if I'm not winning every race, I'm never falling behind on tasks, the world never rolling up on me like a snowball I feel like I can't crawl out from. My own damn inability to get started in the first place, and keep going, setting up things to get worse and worse, my anxiety and stress getting more intense the more I put it off, which only makes me want to put it off more.
In Pocket Stables, the relief I'm getting, the fantasy I'm fulfilling, is not of being a successful jockey, or a powerful horse ranch owner, but being presented a series of tasks, ones far bigger than the daily grind of chores, but far smaller than the overwhelming oversight that’s necessary to run a city, and finishing them the moment they come my way.
Certainly, the horses, the game, has its own control over me, a grip on me that I need to fulfill its requests in the first place, but there’s a sense of mutual benefit to me - at least, much as a digital stallion can benefit from anything at all. The game gets my attention, I get that cooling mental relief.
The irony here is not lost on me, this sense of fulfillment from this game while the garbage in my brain kept me from leaving the gate, either forgetting I was supposed to be writing this piece, or putting it off in the first place. C'est la vie. A power fantasy, even one as good as this one, does not transfer skills. But to escape my own self, my limitations, has a value of its own; firstly for simply the good feeling it gives me, second to show me what I could be capable of. ◒