The Appeal of Minimalist Gaming

Photo by Laura Davidson on Unsplash

Let me take you on a journey back to 2006. Some of you fellow boomers may recognize this as the year the PS3 hit the shelves. I remember it vividly as it coincided with my first abstract experience of minimalist living. Hoarding wasn’t in my name, but it was definitely in my nature. Over the course of the six year life-span of my beloved PS2, I had single-handedly accumulated three large see-through storage boxes full of video games. Many that I loved, many that I loathed, but one thing was for sure, they were my identity, my currency and my bragging rights amongst my brother and school friends…

that was at least until my parents shocked my world with the news that we’d be moving out, and a part of that process entailed offloading items at our local car boot sale. I was mortified, rebellious and it pained me so deeply to watch on as each of my trusty companions (the video game box and the chunky rule books) were sold at a measly price and placed into the unfamiliar hands of another family. Yet — despite my reservations to watch them go, at the end of that day, I felt an overwhelming sense of freedom, and realized that my attachment to the games had been entirely materialistic and reputation-based. Truth be told, I couldn’t name a single one of those games, nor did I care to remember. Well, that’s not completely true… Timesplitters 2, I’ll always love and miss you!!

The minimalist lifestyle

Fast forward to the here and now, and I can present to you the ten commandments that all minimalists should abide by :-

  1. Your minimalist apartment must have no more than two shades of colour, preferably black or white.
  2. You must own fewer than 100 possessions.
  3. You must convert to a life of environmentalism and become vegetarian /vegan.
  4. You must never enter wedlock or conceive children.
  5. You must clear out all objects that are not being actively used in one fell swoop.
  6. You must conduct a daily count of all items to ensure you do not surpass the 100 item threshold.
  7. If you already have children, they shall not carry more than two toys up until adolescence.
  8. You must not own any material object of a greater value than £250 (including vehicles).
  9. You must not commit to a career that provides a salary.
  10. There are no rules relating to minimalism, and all of the rules listed above are in fact fabricated or exaggerated, and based upon common misconceptions that many people hold about the minimalist lifestyle!

A true minimalist definition

In a nutshell, The true minimalist definition is as follows : — The happiness derived from creating memorable life experiences outweighs the materialistic pleasure of possessions. Happiness and fulfilment are borne from reducing the excess of distractions that are taking priority over your freedom to create a meaningful life. As a minimalist, the power is in your hands to establish which belongings have a substantial impact on your life, and which are expendable.

The minimalist aesthetic

In its early years, minimalism was an artistic expression conveyed through simple linework, a basic colour palette, and the deliberate combined arrangement of both on the canvas. As expressed in more modern terms above, minimalism was introduced as a clean aesthetic choice using the least materials to create the desired outcome.

The Industrial Revolution kickstarted an age of mass production with the invention of novel machinery that could engineer an immense volume of items per day. Before we knew it, we had produced more items than we could manage. With very few options other than to sell in bulk, we naively invited marketing and advertising schemes into our societal structure. Advertisement companies scatter their breadcrumbs (images, commercials and listings of an item that they’re attempting to sell) in newspapers, on billboards, in our mail, on our televisions, etc etc.

This subconsciously triggers the chemical release of dopamine in our brains’ reward centre. Low and behold, we’ve unnecessarily bought that item without a second thought of how we plan on using it, or if at all! In light of one company grossly profiting, the domino effect is set into full motion as all neighbouring companies mimic the same manipulative behaviour creating a new norm. This filters down into society and shapes a hierarchy in which reputation and success becomes predicated on our ability to accumulate as many expensive, designer items as possible.

Psychological impact of consumerism

The psychological principle of Identity Investment was coined for the new age population who are motivated to align their sense of self with the products that simulate their identity. For example, during my school years, I formed an emotional attachment to only buying and wearing VANS shoes. At that time, many people would identify me as “the kid with the VANS”. Another psychological factor that influences our decision to place so much meaning and value to our items is loss aversion. We worry far more about losing possessions than we care about the enjoyment of having and using them.

“The things you own, end up owning you.” — Tyler Durden, Fight Club.

Minimalism shifts our mindset in the opposite direction of Identity Investment and Loss Aversion.

Rather than spontaneously making a purchase based on a perceived need, you seek to make use of that which you already own. By following this tradition, minimalism teaches you a process by which to deliberately equate worth with the items that are fundamentally important in your life. Contrary to the notion that you have to limit your amount of items to an arbitrary number, you determine which items add value within the context of your ambitions. This is a predominant fixture in the Shinto belief system in Japan. Ask yourself? Does owning this item fill you with joy? Is it contributing to your sense of long-term fulfilment? If the answer is no, there’s a high probability that you won’t lose any sleep once it’s gone.

Minimalist living is not an impulsive one-and-done decluttering, it’s a conscious balancing act of measured decision making. Its benefits include :-

  • Less focus on self-consumption, and more thought given to creating for others.
  • Less distractions and therefore more time to use our energy towards forming meaningful relationships with family and friends.
  • The value of the items that we keep frees our mind to be mindful in the moment and pursue the things that we’re genuinely passionate about.
  • The fewer objects we have, the less stressful it is for our brain to choose a pathway to take for the day. By minimizing stress, our health takes precedence.

To clarify, minimalism holds a different meaning depending on who you talk to. There is no one glove fits all approach. Take Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus for example. They devised a rule-based vision of minimalism, recognized as the 90/90 rule, to elect whether or not to get rid of an item. It simply conforms to the two simple constructs of :- whether or not you’ve utilized said item in the past 90 days, and if not, are you planning to make use of it in the subsequent 90 days.

Minimalist gaming

In the context of video gaming, minimalism can prove challenging to the avid gamer who prides themselves on their extensive gaming collection. From owning a diverse range of consoles to a family of Pop! vinyl figures, we are consumed by the need to let the world know that we have a rich history of gaming. Our gaming rooms and gaming setups have their own ecosystem that evolve alongside our nostalgic experiences and generational iterations of a gaming franchise.

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” — Annie Dillard

The culture of collection is fuelled by corporate entertainment companies who feed on our fear of missing out with the stimulating promise of exclusivity, spectacular launch day rewards, pre-order bonuses and DLC add-ons. The daunting prospect of playing catch-up to our friends and trailing behind on the competitive ladders lights a flame that can only be snuffed out by reaching for your purse / wallet.

In the era of low internet exposure, and at a stage where gaming was considered a niche hobby, this was a non-issue, as you’d wait months between releases, and have to queue up outside your local gaming store, many of which only had a limited pool of games to sell on the day. In stark contrast, the digital age of gaming takes centre-stage as a flagship of entertainment. The emergence of social media and the growth of content creators who create a sense of hype and immediacy has become a catalyst for the gaming industry as a collective to churn out releases, sponsor and provide early access to twitch streamers, youtubers and review sites to influence their audiences to buy, buy and buy some more.

This phenomenon is not exclusive to gaming, I have personally witnessed as Twitch streamers haphazardly pour their earnings into buying the top-end PCs, microphones, cameras, overlays, desks, chairs, monitors and accessories without the consideration of just streaming and getting a good feel for it first. Individualistic societies are manipulated to endure the mindset of never being satisfied and that there is never ‘enough’. How do I know this? Well, because I fell victim myself!

Out of every ten physical games that you’ve purchased, how many did you blindly indulge in without conducting any research or waiting until after release? Of those, how many did you never play, which of those did you instantly regret, and are there any that you now hate and have chosen to never revisit?

If you can even remember the names of those games, why was it an instinctive process not to sell or give those games away? Well, that’s simple… we perceive there to be a cost of ownership, and deeply rooted in our minds is the notion that unless we can no-life those games to completion, it would be go down as an even greater squandering of funds.

The intentional minimalist

My approach combines minimalism and gaming in a way that is easy to follow — Don’t minimize happy!

The key takeaway is to be intentional with your choices. The purpose of this blog is not to tell you to clear out your entire collection or to rob you of the happiness you find in buying games, but instead, I want you to actively think about the genre of games that fill you with life. are they single player games or games that you prefer to play with friends? Is the narrative immersion of importance to you? Or would you rather bury your emotions and blast your way through an alien colony?

Upon deciding what best fits the bill for you, take a trip down memory lane to figure out which games accentuate your life, and which were impulse buys that are now gathering dust for the sake of looking pretty or as a token of guilt for having not played or enjoyed the experience. Or if you’d rather, apply the 90/90 rule that we discussed earlier.

Aesthetic minimalism

Perhaps you’re not in the business of getting rid of anything at all, but fancy the idea of a minimalist gaming setup, that too can be achieved when following aesthetic minimalism by example. The core principle is to create an aesthetic within your minimalist house that is visually pleasing. This can be attained through decluttering, careful organisation of objects and regularly compartmentalizing items into specific drawers, cupboards or storage units after use.

A clear example would be to utilize your desk space efficiently. Store away any coasters, cables, accessories, books or figurines that are distracting. Equally, if you own a PC, be sure to stay on top of cable management. The end product is a better looking room which is complemented by an even better feeling person. Oh, and don’t forget to put your empty Mc Donalds waste in the recycling bin… I won’t shame you for being guilty of having a good time! bara ba ba ba, I’m lovin’ it!

Throughout my blog, I’ve alluded to the benefits of minimalist gaming with regards to the physical environment, but given the digital shift to online platforms, hosts and browsers, it’s more relevant than ever to practice minimalist living in the technological realm too. Consider removing unnecessary apps and software from your phone, consoles and PC in favour of those that add the most value to your day-to-day.

If you regularly use Steam as I do, be conscious of the games that are installed, categorize them into genres in your mind (or on Steam if that’s an option… forgive me, I’m a boomer!), and try to limit the games that you use most to a single SSD and hard drive so as not to lose track of them. Additionally, be wary of making purchases during Steam sales as it’s easy to take the gung-ho approach and buy every title under the sun. To avoid potential burnout, make it tradition to play a game at a certain time or day, and vary between playing alone or with friends to spice up your experiences.

The quirkout plan

Order! ORD!?3R! To all who bear witness to my closing statements, I would like to reiterate that the minimalist lifestyle will have a different look for everyone, so put your blinkers on and find a comfortable fit for you. I repeat, don’t minimize happy! Be the judge of your own happiness, be intentional, and leave out all the rest. Mental and physical freedom is at your fingertips!

Safe Simping, Axon Potential.

Which aspects of minimalist gaming are you willing to explore? Let me know in the comments section below!



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Jordan Saycell

Jordan Saycell

Hi! I’m Jordan. I’m just like you. I think and feel — sometimes too much, then squiggle it into existence for your pleasure! blog.