So, I’ve been playing more Satisfactory. In fact, I spent an entire weekend doing nothing but playing Satisfactory (I mean, I also ate meals, did laundry, slept, and so on, but I didn’t do any other leisure activities). I’m still not sure if I can say I’m having fun or enjoying myself, but the game definitely keeps me engaged and focused in a way little else does these days. Sure, part of that is that I’ve been incredibly stressed by work–and life in general–lately, to the point of needing to just escape at all costs, but part of it is the huge appeal of logic puzzles and managing to scrape order and efficiency you can actually see out of a chaotic mess. Or, sometimes, exulting in the chaos that has order only in your eyes because you built it, block by block.
The more enjoyable parts of the game have to do with traversal, conveyor belts, and exploring the physics engine of the game. Being able to slide jump is fun, since you can get a lot of height and speed out of it, but upgrading your sprinting speed and jump height so you can slide jump across ravines and over your entire manufacturing area is just fabulous fun. Combining both those things with a high-speed conveyor belt and using a glitch to launch yourself further than you can see off a giant sky ramp you built is the right kind of zany hijinks I need so I can avoid confronting the fact that I’m waiting fifty minutes for a manufacturing machine to assemble a whole pile of weird motor thingies that I’m going to stick into a space elevator and launch into space in order to unlock the ability to build weird computer things whose only purpose is to be put into a space elevator to unlock whatever comes next.
But that’s kind of how most game progression works. You perform a series of tasks in order to unlock new abilities and items you’ll be using to perform a new series of tasks in order to unlock yet more abilities and/or items. It’s a self-feeding cycle no matter what game you play, but Satisfactory puts a little less shine on the gamification side of things since it recognizes that sometimes it just feels good to build and participate in systems.
I mean, no other game is going to send me on a wiki goose chase that ends in me learning about fluid dynamics and researching how to build water towers and overflow valves so I can seemlessly continue production even if I produce too much fuel from the crude oil I piped around and fill up the storage tanks I’ve built since apparently I unlock refineries before I unlock fuel-burning power plants. It is both educational AND occupying. Suddenly, everything I learned from my civil engineer parents as a small child makes so much more sense! Plus, it is admirable how good the game is at preserving fluid pressure across what is now almost two kilometers of oil pipes (the source I found is actually pretty high up and while I needed pumps to move the oil through some of the space in between due to hills, I was able to put the final fluid lock up above my refineries without needing to add more pumps).
I unlocked the ability to set up control valves during my last session, so I’m excited to be able to increase the efficiency of my by-product output by setting up a system that only ties into the second refinery when I increase production of the by-products.
All of which to say that I think this game is fun because it is educational in a self-motivated kind of way for me and it pushes me to use a part of my mind that doesn’t get used that often anymore.