The Beauty of Terrible Stories (Part 1)

Hello!  Happy New Year!

Where have I been?

Well, I’ve been busy.

I got married.

Wedding with Radar

Not to the dog.  I didn’t get married to Radar.  I just like this picture a whole lot.  And you don’t need to see my husband.

I also had a birthday, which turned me 25 years old.

Then I finished my new draft of Grotesque, reread it twice, and sent it to my agent.

So yeah, I’ve not had a lot of time to blog, nor have I had many things to blog about.  The thing is, there is one subject I’ve been meaning to touch on for a while now, and that is the hilarious and inspiring stories that I encounter every day while playing time management games.

For those who don’t know, time management games are a type of clicky, iPad game where you control a character (or characters) to make them complete a set of tasks within a time limit.  It involves managing your time properly, hence “time management.”  I am addicted to these games.  It all started with Diner Dash, which I absolutely loved until it went the route of Facebook games.  More specifically, they wanted me to pay them to turn my real money – which can be exchanged for real goods and services – into fake money – which can be exchanged for fake goods and services in an extremely limited capacity.

I never understood that.  It made no sense to me that people would pay money for like… Farmville or whatever.  But I had already paid to own Diner Dash!  So it was cruel and unusual to ask me to pay even more money on a regular basis.

But that’s beside the point.  The games I love most now are called Gardens Inc. (1,2, and 3), Supermarket Mania 2, and Jet Set Go! (Their exclamation point, not mine).  I want to share some stories about their stories.  I wish I could use a ton of screenshots, but I don’t know what’s going to push me beyond the safety of the Fair Use Act.  Instead I’ll illustrate some of my points using Mini Bex, as per the norm.  I will also say that I love these games.  I bought them and have played them all multiple times.  So this is free advertising for them, because I am recommending here that you buy them.

Today we’ll start with Gardens Inc., which was created by an infinite number of developers.  No just three I guess.  Intenium, World-Loom, and Nitreal Games.

The thing about these games is they often have ridiculous settings.  The best example is Supermarket Mania.  You play a young woman named Nikki who runs a supermarket.

That’s it.

Perhaps the developers are aware of this, because they try to offset the mundane environments with over-the-top plots.  These plots often include Villains (with a capital V!).  And they are the best Villains, as you’ll see.  Here are the plots of Gardens Inc 1, 2, and 3:

Gardens Inc. 1: From Rakes to Riches – You play a young woman in overalls named Jill.  Jill’s grandparents live in a dilapidated villa and owe money to a man who wears a snow-white suit and sunglasses all the time.  This man’s name is Cliff Gold.  How much money do Gramma and Grampa owe?  A cool million.  How is Jill going to help them come up with the money?  By winning a gardening contest, of course!  A gardening contest that comes with a grand prize of a million dollars.  Because such contests exist!


Gardens Inc. 2: The Road to Fame – You play Jill again.  Jill and her platonic (for now) business partner, Mike, are starting their own company.  It’s called Gardens Inc.!  Did we mention they garden?  Well, they don’t just do that.  They also renovate fountains, Japanese pagodas, park benches, flooded footpaths, and two (Two!) different kinds of staircases (wood and stone).  Guess what?  Another gardening contest!  This one run by an 129-year-old woman who is a “famous” gardener.  Her name is Lady Bloom (duh!).  But also there’s a thief!  And the villain from the previous game, Cliff “I have a closet full of white suits” Gold, is also back for some reason!  And then Mike gets kidnapped!  By Cliff Gold!  Jill has to save him!  How does she do that?  By gardening, of course!  Because, thankfully for Jill, all of her problems can be solved with gardening.  It would be a real bummer if she was an expert gardener but the only way to solve her problems was through a series of fashion design related tasks.

Gardening 2

Gardens Inc. 3: The One With a Wedding – I forget what the subtitle for this one is.  Hold on… [Looks it up] A Bridal Pursuit!  That’s it.  Jill and her no-longer-platonic friend, Mike, are getting married!  But also they are trying to expand their gardening business internationally, which isn’t going so well because of the new villains, Max and Lydia Perfect.  Max wears a Hawaiian-print shirt all the time.  So you know he’s trouble.  They also garden and for some reason are trying to sabotage Gardens Inc.  Also Jill and Mike’s wedding rings get stolen, and there’s some French chick named Nicole?  And um… something about like… weird ancestry?  And caves?  This one lost me a little.  But you can bet they solve all their problems through gardening!

I highly recommend these games, as I said.  They are unique and challenging, with proper difficulty curves and an abundance of different levels.  Each level comes with a clue for a “Bonus Design Award” where you can plant the right colors of flowers for extra points.  But the “clue” is often something like, “Think about stripes!” or, “Everything!”  And then you just know to make stripes or use every type of plant.  Not so much a clue as a direct, explicit instruction.  Still fun, though.

So what’s the point of all this?  Why talk about the ridiculousness of clicky-game stories?  Well, where else do you get to get away with shenanigans like the kind listed above?  It’s so refreshing and fun.  You can laugh at it, but still be engaged by it.  Sure I don’t give a toss about Jill’s grandparents.  They look old enough to live comfortably in a retirement home.  And sure the mayor of her town wears a top hat.  It’s absolutely ridiculous, but it’s fun to play along and pretend there really is a universe where gardening is the end-all-be-all for everyone’s livelihood.

The only other medium where you can be as crazy as that is manga, I think.  Like, my favorite manga is about a family that has been possessed by the spirits of the animals of the zodiac, and anytime they get hugged by someone of the opposite sex they turn into their respective animals.  So yeah… sometimes crazy, outlandish stories are fun.

Until next time!

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Filed under Games, Humor, Manga, writing

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