At the end of June 2016 I underwent fairly major surgery in a London hospital, and in preparation I downloaded a large number of games to my 3DS and iPad for the week long stay.
I ended up not playing any of the games I brought with me.
What I underestimated before going in for surgery was the mental drain that blood loss and pain would have on my ability to focus. The games I brought with me largely required an amount of mental effort to play, and I could not face working through them.
So, what games are out there in the world that can be played while a little exhausted from surgery?
The first games I found that were manageable post-surgery were the modern TellTale adventure games. Focused on narrative, puzzles with minimal time constraints and dialogue choices, for the most part the games play themselves with minor input from the player.
I could play through Tales from the Borderlands or Minecraft: Story Mode with minimal energy expended, and keep up with what the games expected of me. Other chose-your-own-adventure titles like Life is Strange have the same appeal.
Next up on the list of games I could manage was Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The Lego games are designed with younger players in mind, and as such present a fairly low skill barrier to older ones. The gameplay boils down to simple collection, button mashing combat and other low energy engagement. The light-hearted reinterpretation of the source material is also perfect fodder for distracting from the low level persistent pain that comes with recovering from surgery.
While many gamers talk down on the “walking sim” genre, games like Gone Home or Firewatch, which focus on slow exploration of an environment and passive engagement with a story, also work well post-surgery. They are low on time-sensitive challenge, and usually getting lost or nodding off momentarily while playing will not incur a punishment.
Character Action games, like God of War or Bayonetta, if played on easy difficulty, can also work well for post-surgery play. They feature incredibly little in the way of puzzles which saves players from needing to expend energy focusing on coming up with solutions, and instead allowing players with low mental energy to focus on hitting things until impressive visual effects happen.
Lastly, the Kirby franchise seems to be tailor made for those struggling with mental energy and focus. Bright and colourful presentation, unique gameplay mechanics for each installment, but paired with a deliberately low level of challenge. Kirby’s Epic Yarn features minimal punishment for loss and ample visual reward for progression, while Canvas Curse’s challenge is reduced to drawing colourful lines to lead around our protagonist. Kirby games are easy, friendly, and welcoming,
While I’ve likely missed a huge number of games from this list, now feels like a good time to hand off to the comments section. Which games do you play when you need something low energy? Let us know in the comments below.