At this time of year we know that the pressure of revision timetables, last minute summative deadlines, and relentless cramming can get on top of you, so we’ve put together a list of games that should help you relax at this trying time. It’s not by any means exhaustive, mainly as I am exhausted myself from the above too, but it has a few interesting choices for you.
Minecraft (PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3)
This game is often in gaming lists for many reasons; its infinite mod-ability, novel art style, ingenuity or general life-eating addictiveness, but is often forgotten as an aide to relaxation. In its vanilla form, with the mobs turned off, Minecraft comes into its own as a tool to aid relaxation; the soft musical notes of C418, coupled with the freedom of an open-world that you can shape at your leisure, without the risk of sudden creeper related death, really brings the blood pressure down. You can almost feel the stress drain from your revision addled brain as you begin to think about where you’re going to build your palatial, yet beautiful home. This is perhaps where this all falls down as a relaxing activity; you watch some Youtubers who are minecraft wizards build amazing dream-like towers, sprawling metropolises, or cavernous dwarven kingdoms, try to emulate them and begin tearing your hair out. Blocks weren’t made to do such things! Eventually you find yourself lying awake at night, thinking of new ways to design a buttress for a tower that looks less like a mythical, dream-like wizards tower, and more like an over-ambitious bungalow. Useful for relaxation then, but only in moderation. 7/10
Grand Theft Auto V (PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Playstation 3, Playstation 4)
Having finally been released on PC earlier this month, Grand Theft Auto V can finally be said to have been given to the public in its finished form, 60fps and all, complete with all of the potential relaxation that San Andreas has to offer. If you’ve never played Grand Theft Auto before then I’ll have to explain that violence can be fun, if only because of the absurdity of being able to steal a supercar, shooting its owner if you desire, before going careering through the city, free of traffic codes and restrictions. If you hit the odd pedestrian then no problem, you can always get another car after you’ve escaped from the police. The escapism of GTA is what makes it such a good game to spend a few hours chilling out with. But apart from the violent aspect of the game, there is a plethora of activities for your virtual self to partake in from car, bike, plane, boat and running races, parachuting, triathlon, jobs, heists, deliveries, challenges, stunt jumps and even some submarine exploration of the sea bed to get stuck into. Even on top of all of these things, the story is also very entertaining, with a mosaic cast of characters and mission types which should help you escape some of that exam stress. The online capabilities of the game are also impressive with GTA Online containing all of the content of the main game, minus the story mode, but including player-made game modes and challenges, as well as open world play in which to cause carnage with up to 16 other players/your mates. If gratuitous violence with your friend isn’t relaxing, then I don’t know what is. 8/10
Proteus (PC, Playstation 3, PS Vita)
Proteus is an unusual one, simply because it’s up for debate as to whether this is actually a ‘game’ or not, with one Steam review describing it as an “interactive screensaver”. In this article, I’m not debating that, but I am debating which games will help you lot relax while doing your exams and I think this is a pretty strong contender, so strap in. Proteus is a procedurally generated pseudo-exploration pseudo-game (Yeah, I know), in which the objective, if there is one at all, is to explore an island throughout the changing seasons at your own pace, advancing to the next season at the end of each in-game day. Proteus displays a very pleasing pixelated art style that has something of a retro arcade feel, which when combined with the brightly coloured flowers, trees and landscape is extremely cheerful. I think this could be particularly useful if you’ve just had to revise an especially dense chunk of revision which you swear you’d never been taught, or an exam hasn’t gone quite as well as you feel it could have. Load up Proteus, and there you have it, your troubles have melted away in front of the kaleidoscope of the environment on display before you. It really is an interesting concept, the idea of a game with no objectives or narrative, it is simply the music that changes depending on what you interact with, where you stand, and so on. So try it, put on a pair of headphones and enjoy the rather ethereal, yet uplifting soundtrack, the vibrant landscape and just enjoy the experience.
After the disappointing release of Sim City a few years ago, those of us who really enjoy a good city builder were left bereft of a game that lived up to expectations. Now, however, we have such a game, and that is the highly mod-able, unbroken game that is Cities: Skylines. This one might not be for most of you, but I find that there is nothing so relaxing as slowly building up a small town to a sprawling metropolis over the space of a few weeks, especially if you put the time and effort into designing an aesthetically pleasing city layout. This option probably isn’t for everyone because this game can actually be incredibly stressful, especially when you get down to the nitty gritty of traffic management which seems to be unfathomable and exist outside of the rules of the known universe. As I mentioned above, the modding for this game is very good and extensive, with mods ranging from custom made real-world buildings, ready-made intersections, improved game mechanics and also custom maps on which to build your city (ranging from real world locations, to fantasy worlds, to Gabe Newell’s smiling face). Cities: Skylines is basically the game that the last Sim City should have been, it has roughly the same graphical style, zoning works in a very similar way, but there are definitely improvements that should make your time playing easier, such as being able to build highways, large cities (you can purchase new zones to create or extend bigger cities), and even up and down grade one-way roads (this was a user created mod that was integrated into the game after release). Keep it light, don’t get too caught up in traffic related rage and try to create something beautiful, and Cities: Skylines should be very able to help you chill out during revision.
So there you have it, here are some of my suggestions for games that should help you relax while revising, or chill out after you’ve finished your exams, which is always important. But remember, if you enjoy a game then it can help you relax, even if its a frenetic, fast-paced shooter, or high octane arcade game, if you like to spend time playing it, then you should make time in your exam revision schedule for it.