The comforting fun of brainless games

Dynasty Warriors 1


Why I love small

In Why I Love, PC Gamer writers pick an aspect of PC gaming that they love and write about why it's brilliant. Today, Tom (pictured) dual wields games and not-games. What madness is this?

I frequently play games on one screen with some other entertainment playing on a second screen. Sometimes I'll play a game with a podcast in the background. Though not an uncommon habit, it's a little odd. If a piece of entertainment is worth consuming, shouldn't it be worth our complete attention?

Ideally, but just because a game lacks a worthwhile story doesn't mean it has nothing to give. I love the moment-to-moment monster-crushing of Diablo 3, but I've long since moved past the point where I have to learn new skill combinations or consider character builds too much. I like Dynasty Warriors 8 because I enjoy having amazing hair and inflicting 1000 hit combos on an army of enemy drones. Sometimes after a long day the idea of killing millions of cartoon characters seems appealing, even comforting, but I like to squeeze more into that time. I mean no disrespect to Dynasty Warrior's squealing guitar opera soundtrack, but I could be catching up on the latest episode of Serial while I blitz up Lu Bu with a giant bladed fan.

Two pieces of light entertainment can combine to create a bizarre entertainment megazord. I've doubtless missed out on some of the finer nuances of Arrow, but I can look away from my latest run on Ghom, Lord of Gluttony to watch Arrow arrow a guy, and giggle at the show's sillier turns. Overriding a game's soundtrack can create interesting effects too; the blistering speed and slow-motion crashes of Burnout Paradise takes on an extra dimension when you introduce a bit of Enya.

Space Marine - bloody splat

This must dismay developers, who put huge amounts of thought into sound design. I find that custom soundtracks and podcasts can also soften the frustration of action roguelikes and frenzied score attack games like Geometry Wars, though this can create odd associations. Thanks to one particularly graphic podcast description of Gengis Khan's rampages in Europe, Wolfenstein: The New Order's shotgun noise and the siege of Baghdad are forever linked in my brain.

I doubled up on Wolfenstein only in my second run, but other games are a perfect fit right away. I've used audio to augment the delightfully splattery Space Marine, and Nuclear Throne. I have learned a lot listening to shows while gently mining and exploring in Starbound and Terraria. I can only handle death in Spelunky with some sonic aid. Games can have a message; they can be moving; they can be art. Sometimes, they can just be amazing mindless entertainment.

Those games are worth celebrating. It takes skill to make a game as idly satisfying as Downwell or Dynasty Warriors or Torchlight. Even though alone they can't completely hold my meagre attention span, they have given me countless hours of dumb, brainless fun.

Tom Senior

Part of the UK team, Tom was with PC Gamer at the very beginning of the website's launch—first as a news writer, and then as online editor until his departure in 2020. His specialties are strategy games, action RPGs, hack ‘n slash games, digital card games… basically anything that he can fit on a hard drive. His final boss form is Deckard Cain.