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Games to play at your home office now that your boss is away

Let's call it domestic privacy flexibility

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Here's a tentative list of the best games to play at your home office now that you don't have your boss looking over you shoulder.

One of Bukowski's greatest works is called The Captain is Out to Lunch and the Sailors Have Taken Over the Ship, and I guess this expression perfectly embodies the liberating feeling many of us are facing now with the opportunity to work from home. Probably you just realized you have a few extra hours on your day from just skipping both work commute and all that dress code altogether. And it is also possible you grasped you can easily do most of the work within a few hours. Maybe you even accidentally wore pajamas all day long while binge watching a whole season of your new favorite Netflix show, inadvertently leaving your future self to suffer the consequences of your inactions which will inevitably result in rushing through work with an intense session of last minute panic fueled by monsters energy drinks and unhealthy levels of caffeine. C'est la vie.

Needless to say that, for many of us, this change have turned the world upside down, and that abruptly migrating to home office is just not so easy to adjust to our daily routine, especially with so much entertainment appetizers constantly served to us on a silver platter, tempting us to just sit around and slack off all day long. I’m pretty sure procrastination became the eighth sin by now. Even I who have been long used to writing from home fell from grace last week, after watching way too many disastrous news, which left me sadly unconsolable. All I did was play Warframe non-stop through almost the entire week with virtually no work done. If that happens to you, this article is what you need, and I will try  to cover a few games, tips and advice to balance gaming life with your indoors career.

Of course, these are far from being rules carved on stone, so take everything with a grain of salt. Experiment adjusting it in the best way possible to your lifestyle and personal preferences. Likewise, feel free to contribute to the discussion by giving your own solutions and takes on this matter. Besides, it is a pandemic, goatdamnit, you deserve to take a moment to rest and free yourself from the chains of capitalist’s expectations of productivity. Enjoy some time for leisure and self-care from time to time. Perhaps just do whatever you want. Breed that Pokemon until you have a super shiny with perfect IVs. Capture an infinitude of tarantulas on Animal Crossing. Do whatever secret-finding-demon-slaying-thingy DOOM people do these days. You deserve it. No pressure.

Did you enjoy a nice pause from work? Nice. So, let’s get back to it. Yep, we have established it is way too easy to lose yourself to poor life choices due to gloomy loss of self control and waste your whole day playing whatever free games companies are releasing this season. But you have work to do eventually, and will probably want to be responsible while also enjoying some domestic privacy flexibility. So, how is the best way to do it?

Well, I’m far from being a professional of sorts. I am sincerely not well versed on Ted Talks and coach shenanigans, but I like to read and watch videos that help you be more productive, such as Thomas Frank’s youtube channel. Even though I find a lot of those life hacks to be way too extreme for me, there are some tricks I managed to adapt and incorporate very well in my daily life.

One of these lifesaving tips is using the Pomodoro Technique, and since most of my work revolves around heavy research, long hours of reading and inexhaustible writing, I have a slightly tailored and simpler version of that, but its description is available on wikipedia with further details in case you want to learn more. I’ll just give you a short tip of the iceberg version.

Additionally I should warn you that, in my experience, it is very useful if you use an intuitive tracking tool. So I would like to share my favorite pomodoro chronometer on tomato-timer.com that will help you effortlessly. Mainly, the secret is setting a timer for 25 minutes. Then proceed to doing only one task using all your focus avoiding distractions and multitasking. When it rings, have a 5-minute break, no matter what, even if the work is not completely finished. Do absolutely. nothing of your regular work within the break. It is a free time! Repeat. On every multiple of four breaks you can have some well deserved long 10-minute break. Easy, right? Take note that on lazy days, I like to go for 30 minutes of work, 10 minutes of short breaks and 30 minutes of long breaks.

“Ok, Thiago”, you may say, “I’m not here for crappy productive advice. I’m here for games. I was promised games. GIMME GAMES!”. Okay, okay, calm down. I am sorry. I just wanted to cautiously establish some minimal workplace ethics and well thought professional choices. So, “tomayto, tomahto” or not, here are some basic tips on games that may help you on your periodical pauses from work.

1- Avoid long games

This rule is assuming you may have to stop your game session to answer some video conference, urgent calls or important emails. Also, avoid games you can’t pause, such as online services and FPSs. It may be frustrating to stop these games every now and then, losing progress or getting shot. Also, if you are following the tomato rules, you should know it is very easy to lose track of what you are doing and break immersion with constant pauses.

Skip games that require exploring, long fighting scenes, or turn-based RPGs. It is hard to always remember what you were doing from the moment you paused when you are constantly stopping it at every 25 minutes. Lastly, take a sidestep from games that give you grades based on your time efficiency.

2- Mood and rhythm are key

It's nice to keep an enthusiastic, motivated and pleasantly focused mindset. Games that disrupt this “good vibes only” attitude may lead you to imprint your annoyance directly onto your work. Try to avoid extremely hard, frustrating games, and genres like terror, suspense and dramatic narratives with a lot of trigger warnings. No Last of Us, sorry.

This is very subjective, though, for example, I would not recommend Cuphead because it is the epitome of frustration and it just stresses me out. But I find Celeste heartwarming, even if it is ridiculously difficult. Also, super relaxing games aren't ideal either because their quietness may leave you feeling sluggish and drowsy. Go for stimulating games with desirable levels of attention induction and brainstorming activities.

3- Avoid energy draining games

So, no exercising games and no over-the-top mental challenges. From experience, trying to fit my workout routine on my breaks with Dance Central is just a nightmare. You just consume way too much stamina and will feel depleted more quickly. That said, no intense motion controls activity, Wii Fit, Ring Fit Adventure, or whatever. In the same way, avoid games that exhaust your mental capacity. It is not a smart idea to go full noire detective investigation, sudoku or mind-bending puzzles.

4- Save your big guns for later

Take some shots within the realm of low profile casual games, especially for intended short breaks. Additionally, one of Thomas Frank's productivity advices is to give yourself a huge chunk session of your favorite game after your work is done for the day. This way you won’t be spoiled, and will only be completely rewarded when your tasks are done. Way to for a more meaningful sense of progression.

5- Handheld is your friend

Smartphones and tablets are favorable for short breaks, and if you have a portable console, go for it. Mobile and casual also benefit from having concise gameplay, with small levels and short-timed sessions. Of course, the question on where to play is also very personal. I would recommend at least not using the same tools for work in your playtime. I usually like separating and compartmentalizing things. So, if you are a PC gamer, for example, try taking notes on paper for your work. If you are a console player, experiment with having different screens for your work and your game,  if feasible.

To sum up, go for no-brainer action-packed or thrilling soft puzzles that are broken down to small bits of obstacles at a time. Make sure to experiment a lot, go with your gut feeling and flavor it to your personal sensibility. Now, for the games. I am gonna suggest the titles that have worked a lot for me, with some free-to-play mobile games and a few indie inexpensive options too.

Badland 

It is a one touch obstacle course with an adorable flappy birdlike mutant creature that will have you working through some obstacle courses, filled with traps and environmental treats, requiring a bit of problem solving and a lot of traversing skill. Nice quick small levels that will make you feel rushing through your pauses.

Celeste

Even though it is hellishly difficult sometimes the game narrative is amazingly encouraging and every step of the way feels earned and rewarding. The game levels are divided in small sections filled with save points, and it is very easy to get through a few challenges in a short break with the added bonus of feeling inspired.

Katana zero

You are a short tempered samurai like figure with a bad ass kicking doors attitude. It is fast paced, with a unforgiving one hit KO mechanic that not even your ability to slow time and reflect bullets will be able to save you, it requires good reflexes and strategic thinking. The fases, or “days” are broken into small manageable areas. Story-wise it may be a downer sometimes. But can I just say this soundtrack is formidable? Honestly, it is my playlist choice on  Spotify for work and study.


Mario Kart/Super Smash Bros

Or, you know, your favorite racing and fighting games. Both can have very small sessions through a single course or one time battle, suitable for any kind of break. Alternatively, Brawlhalla is a more simplistic free to play option for the fighting genre.

Trine

You play as a shapeshifting amalgamation of classic RPG characters - a wizard, a knight and a thief, each one with very special and unique abilities. It has a fine mixture of platforming, battling and problem solving. With small to medium courses, it is a good call for bigger breaks.

Candy crush

If you don’t know what candy crush is, where have you been in the past decade? Living under a rock? So, this game has a simple, but addictive color matching puzzle mechanic, with a smoothing soundtrack. Even though it is a free to play casual mobile game, don’t overlook its potential. Recently, it has partnered with the World Health Organization, as part of #PlayApartTogether campaign, and is giving unlimited lives to all players during covid-19 quarantine period. Personally, I dislike “Soda”, and recently got into the “Friends” version. All stages have limited moves and some are even short timed challenges. It is very stimulating and you are easily going to be able to play a couple of rounds even in short breaks.

Angry birds

You probably know it by now, it is a bird-slingshotting game that requires precise aiming and a nice degree of puzzle solving. I personally recommend  “Star Wars II”, since it has the characteristic Star Wars’ soundtrack, and mixes weird gravity field physics mechanics, with blaster deflecting lightsaber action and a bunch of interesting gimmicks. Even Jar Jar Binks is funny to play on this one. You can very easily jump through multiple stages within no time, and it is an undemanding way to keep you thoughtfully focused.

Lastly, tell us, how is your work-game balance being affected by quarantine? Do you have any favorites you\'d like to suggest? Do you have extra juicy productive tips? Let us know in the comments section below.

 

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Thiago Villar

Carioca, cinephile, chocoholic. Juggles between finishing law school and pop culture critique. Loves movies, comic books and games. Avid switch player. Indies ftw!

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