OpenTTD: Stepping Away
My criteria for a perfect time wasting computer game is quite basic. I want a game that has no ending conditions. A game that as long as the player possesses enough luck and skill can be played forever. What I really like are for games to present me with a pet city/civilisation/organization and let me manage it. On Friday I found that game and it came very close to stealing my life.
The game is OpenTTD. It is an open source remake of the classic PC game Transport Tycoon Deluxe. The premise is straightforward. It’s a capitalism simulation. You are given a random map with a number of unconnected towns and business. You are also given a loan which is also your seed capital. With that loan your job is to build a transport infrastructure with trains, road, shipping and airports at your disposal so you can start moving commodities for other businesses. The ultimate goal, once you’ve paid off your loan, is too maximise your company’s fake bank balance or, as the aficionados would argue, the beauty and pleasure that can be found in developing elaborate networks. Unless you’ve turned on the optional AI opponents or are playing a multi-player game it is all meaningless. Even then OpenTTD has no story to tell you. It’s just an elaborate digital train set.
And this is exactly the sort of thing that’s very dangerous for me to start playing. To even start thinking about playing this game now that I know it exists is risky. Every fake pound of that flows into my company’s coffers is a little psychological boost that says I should play for just five minutes more. I ruined any hope of doing anything useful on Friday and Saturday trying to get to grips with OpenTTD’s complexities. (I’m terrible at raising money. I suspect I lack the patience and natural talent.) I know a bad thing when I see it. I can see an addiction on the horizon. Don’t misunderstand me: this game is good. Too good. If I give any more time to this infernal game I know it’ll consume me. For my own good it’s time to uninstall OpenTTD.
The occasional Xbox game I can manage while still reading and writing. I doubt I can with OpenTTD in my life. What I want is a time waster and not a full blown hobby.