Is it wrong to love 'podcast games'? -

Is it wrong to love ‘podcast games’?

When we talk about playing games, we usually mean one specific approach: a player focused on the game at hand, with as few distractions as possible pulling them out of the experience. Many of the biggest games out there are designed specifically to encourage this immersion, often actively punishing players if they drift off.

This is not how I would describe my relationship with games. You might be familiar with the notion of the “podcast game,” a game that can comfortably be played with just a fraction of your total attention, the audio either muted or ignored while a podcast, TV show or Twitch stream plays in the background. This has gone from being something I’ll do occasionally to being how I spend most of my time with games, and even factors into deciding the games I play in the first place. What started as something of a guilty habit has in time grown to feel like a new way of understanding how we “play” games.

What makes for a good “podcast game” can vary depending on who you ask, but the best ones all share some common DNA. They need as little story and dialogue as possible, can be challenging but don’t require your constant attention, and perhaps most crucially – they need to have at least some elements of repetitive mundanity. Grinding is a good example: I’ve spent large chunks of my life mindlessly leveling up in Pokémon, a series of podcasts keeping me entertained as I focus on the game just enough to avoid dying.

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