The Computer Game I Play Instead of Writing


As I mentioned in my last post, I haven’t been writing much this week.

I graduated from my PhD a couple of weeks ago, and my creative brain has shut down completely, it seems.

This is a good thing, I believe. It is probably a necessary act of healing, especially after five crazy months of continuous dissertation-novel writing.

I know it’s not a good thing for this blog. I do want to write more, too, about teaching, and about story construction: I have a couple of posts in mind for my “How I Teach College-Level Writing” series.

But, instead, I’ve playing a computer game (obsessively): Endless Legend.


This is a civilisation-building game that is full of stories. You pick a faction on a sci-fi / fantasy planet and slowly develop your empire of city states: as usual, you have to marshall science and industry at the same time as you protect your cities from enemy attacks and roaming (inhuman) barbarians.

It’s a staggering beautiful game. Occasionally, while playing, I will arrive at an empire that a computer-run faction has created, and actually gasp at how lovely it all looks.


Another part of what makes Endless Legend so compelling are the multiple and interwoven quests and story-lines that build up as you explore the world. Each region is occupied by a specific fantastical species, and they will send you on a mini-quest to pacify them and win their loyalty. Mystic ruins also contain quests: plus, your chosen faction has a master quest of its own.


The challenges of battles, city planning, and quest-completing are joined together seamlessly.

(My one critique of the game is that the faction “master-quests” tend to fizzle out at the end, narratively speaking. They often tend to simply end, rather than achieve a final synthesis or plot twist or whatever.)

You may be wondering — who is my favourite faction to play as?

(The factions in Endless Legend are far more distinct than most Civ-type games. One faction, for instance, does not require food, because it is made up of ghostly knights who have possessed their armour, and who argue whether they should feed themselves on the ambient energy of the planet, or the rich life force of humans. Another can never expand, building instead one giant city. And another is simply unable to declare war against its opponents.)

Before, I used to play the Ardent Mages, as their edgy, science-y focus matched how I like to play Civ-type games: get the best equipment and cities and then conquer the world.

However, Steam had a sale this summer, just as my PhD was finishing, and so I picked up all the expansion packs for the game, one of which includes the new faction, The Forgotten.


These guys are a terrible faction, on the face of it: they refuse to do any scientific research, and must instead either buy scientific breakthroughs from the marketplace (which quickly becomes very expensive), or steal them from other empires. Constantly spying on everyone, however, tends to annoy people, and The Forgotten’s armies start off pretty weak, so you have to work hard just to keep up.

These limitations makes them very hard to play. Yet somehow I like the challenge.

Soon, I will stop playing, and get back to art. Soon.

One thought on “The Computer Game I Play Instead of Writing

  1. The reason the “master-quests” end rather than conclude — you know where this is going, Daniel — is because the game is postnarrative; like Game of Thrones, the object isn’t to win, but to keep the game going. Synthesis is actually beside the point! It’s the difference between baseball, with its zero-sum objective, and extreme sports, which are only about the execution of the activity itself.

    Liked by 1 person

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