Oxygen Not Included is a game about building a base on an initially uninhabitable planet by setting your workers to build plumbing, electricity, and infrastructure. It’s a game about thinking ahead, staying efficient, and delegating effectively to stave off colony collapse. I just started playing, and things are going well. Except for all of the pee on the ground.
Look, it can be hard to remember to empty out the latrine, ok? Let’s just say one of my guys couldn’t hold it for as long as it took to plunge out all the buildup from about a week of using the toilet. And that’s where my save file currently rests. One of my workers peed his space pants, it’s all over the ground, he’s crying, everyone else is retching, and no one wants to clean it up. I closed the game, and haven’t opened it since.
I’m so tempted to start over. I just want to click ‘New Game’ so bad. One where nobody peed their pants so bad it’s all over the ground. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. It’s an impulse I feel a lot, especially in games that, like Oxygen Not Included, depend on random generation to create a world or populate it with resources or enemies or weapons. I think, “If I start perfectly, and never make a mistake, then I’ll have the most fun!” Games like XCOM, or Slay the Spire, or The Swindle. If I just never face hardship, then I’ll win! It makes sense.
Except it doesn’t. Not really. I’ll win when I face hardship and lose so many times that I’ve internalized the skills needed to survive and thrive. It’s the fear of conserving the mistake, of baking in the flaws. If I react to the pee on the ground, and put everyone on cleaning that up, then I’m neglecting the oxygen levels. Those get too low, and I can’t focus on collecting water. That slows my food supply. All because of the pee. Ah, I just want to start over!
In my piece “Building,” I mention the difficulty of creating something from flawed foundations. Do we prioritize conservation of the past, or efficiency of the present? Is the fact that we wouldn’t be here without where we started enough to immortalize where we started, or at a certain part should we let go? Is the deck I’m building in Slay the Spire not a poison deck, even though the random card I got at the beginning is a Catalyst? Even in writing that hypothetical I think, “if that happened to me I would just start over.”
This project will have 126 pieces of writing once I upload this. That’s a lot. It’s getting heavy to move. I should know, I just backed up all these pieces from Medium and placed them in a Blogspot account in case — heaven forbid — Medium were to crumble. What was the vision for Medium when it started? How has that now been perverted by the inevitable drive towards profit? How long does it have on this sad round Earth?
This project is getting unwieldy, but it isn’t without consistency. Starting over is a concept I addressed in the piece, “I Want to Start Over” published on Feb 21, 2019. Feels like another lifetime. And yet I feel the same. Funny how that happens.
My best writing happens at the beginning of each month, because I start a new Google Doc every 1st. The wide open page. Then it proceeds to clog with a month of aimless rambling. I worry about July. I historically almost completely miss July, it just whizzes right past me. I wrote about this phenomenon, in “Found on the Side of a Bar.”
I’ve been writing for a while. I don’t even know what my point is anymore. That’s why I like shorter pieces, because then it’s easier to trust that I got my idea across. It’s like my fears of misusing tone that I express in “Tone, Corrections, and the Gloom.” ARGH! What’s my POINT?!
My point is, join me next time, when I talk more about my experience with the game Oxygen Not Included!