I’m an expert at time management. I can keep shelves stocked, floors cleaned, and deliver efficient service that keeps my customers happy … at least, I can in a game. I’m sure you’ve seen games like this: Diner Dash is an old example, but recently I’ve played Supermarket Mania 2 and Dress Up Rush, which is about running a clothing store.
The excellent board game Wok Star (reviewed last fall) tries to emulate this genre in an analog setting, but there are tons of digital versions. In some you bake cakes, or make sushi, or even take care of babies. The one thing that all of these games have in common: tedious, repetitive tasks that you must do within certain time constraints, the faster the better.
I’m not sure what it is about these games that makes them so addictive to me. It’s not like these are tasks I enjoy in real life — I worked some retail both in high school and after college, and while I do think I was pretty efficient at stocking shelves and ringing customers up, it’s certainly not something I did for the sheer fun of it. (Really, it was the employee discounts.) Yet when I come across a game like this, I find that it eats up hours of my time when I should be getting things done — somewhat ironic, given the subject matter.
I was going to say that perhaps the reason I enjoy these games is because I don’t have to do them in real life. But then I remember playing one a few years ago that featured a ridiculously tiny-waisted mom with a baby. You had to respond to the baby’s cries by feeding it, changing it, and rocking it to sleep. In the meantime, you also had to warm the milk, wash the bottles, do the laundry, and catch the ringing phone quickly before it woke up the baby. Even though that’s a very real part of my own life that I don’t have a strong desire to repeat, I kept playing the game.
Dress Up Rush HD, available for iPad only, puts you in charge of a clothing store, though it’s not like any clothing store I’ve shopped at. Your customers come in and sit down, expecting you to wait on them: you bring them a catalog to flip through, pull clothes off the racks, and even bring them coffee. Oh, and don’t forget to ring them up and clean off the chairs for the next customer.
As you progress through the game, you expand the store, adding more clothing racks, more chairs for customers, and shelves for shoes, hats, and bags. Eventually you can even hire some staff to run the cash register, hem clothes, wrap gifts, and clean up (though until you do you’ll be doing all that yourself). I suppose part of the game is getting to the point where you’re running your own little empire … though you still end up doing the bulk of the work yourself.
That’s kind of how it is in Supermarket Mania 2 as well (available for iPhone, iPad, or Macs): no matter how successful you are, you’re still the one pushing the cart of groceries around, stocking shelves. Sure, you can hire a cashier to ring up your customers and you can upgrade to a robotic vacuum to clean the floors, but you never make the jump to management — or maybe that’s the end of the game. No matter how busy and difficult the job gets, though, the (usually female) main character remains incredibly bright-eyed and cheery.
I should point out, though this isn’t a formal review, that I did have some interface troubles with the iPad version of Dress Up Rush. Occasionally “Jane” would get stuck, unable to pick up an item that was requested by a customer. There was also an odd issue on one playthrough where every time I tried to add wardrobe options in the customization screen, the app crashed; upon restart the level started without letting me make new purchases. I ended up with a store that only stocked shoes and bags, unable to serve my customers. Supermarket Mania 2 I mostly played on my Mac, and it seemed to work pretty well.
Maybe part of the appeal of the games is how easy it is to complete these menial tasks. If I could finish the dishes by just pointing and clicking (and waiting the requisite time to finish), I’m sure I wouldn’t mind it as much. If everything were as simple as a click of the mouse, then I could get so much done. Some of my life as a stay-at-home dad is like a time-management game. Oh, laundry’s done, time to put it in the dryer — oh, kid is hungry again, get some food — okay, time to fold the laundry — kid’s hungry again — older kid is home from school, time to help with homework — time to start fixing supper — eat —do dishes — bathe the kids — read stories — bedtime!
Congratulations: Day 2,737 completed!
And then I sit and play games about doing these simple tasks.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve finished writing a blog post and it’s time to go run a supermarket…
Disclosure: GeekDad received promo codes for Supermarket Mania 2 and Dress Up Rush.