One of the things I love about colony simulators like Dwarf Fortress or Gnomoria is watching the home you’ve built grow from nothing into something marvelous; something so complex and intricate it makes the international space station look like a 10th century village in England. The first time I saw a colony that I’d built in Rimworld actually survive its infancy I felt immensely proud, like a father watching their child take their first steps. Okay, I might be exaggerating a little but at the time it was a pretty big deal for me.
This colony was the bee’s knees, and I had every reason to be proud of it. It had several working farms, a fully stocked freezer, a kitchen that pumped out high quality meals for the colonists and an armoury full of weapons. It was a survivalist’s paradise. More importantly, it was my paradise – because I built it.
I wasn’t just proud of myself for making this colony, I was proud of the colonists that helped make this safe haven in a hostile world a reality. There may have only been three of them at the start, but I watched those three work their pixelated butts off to build their home. They became better builders, better fighters and better miners. They even became more adept at cooking when I realized paste created from broken down food wasn’t exactly a foray into the art fine dining. Eventually, the original 3 that crash landed on the planet became 12. The colony became bigger, better, more capable of defending itself. I saw these little buggers take on pirates, raiders, hordes of rabid animals. One of the colonists might die or become so irreparably injured in battle that they’d have to be euthanized, and it would send ripples throughout the colony. I would leave monuments for the honoured dead, so that their legacy could be remembered -even if what they’d be remembered for was dying at the hooves of a half blind deer covered in burn wounds. And yes, that actually happened.
Needless to say, I cared about these colonists. This is precisely why my heart sank when I watched an army of 50 angry tribals armed with clubs slaughter and kidnap my entire colony, as well as set fire to more than half of it.
It was my fault. Not enough of the colonists were skilled enough to be fighters. I hadn’t built enough turrets and honestly, the raid had thrown me a little off guard. The 5 colonists who could fight took down as many as they could, but they were beaten to death – a fate none of them deserved. Once the invaders were done with the guards, they focused their energy on the buildings. They pillaged the colony with such ferocity they made Vikings look like an army of frat boys. By the time they broke through the outer defences and into the colony, it was too late. The colonists who hadn’t been fighting did the best they could to defend themselves, but it was of no use. The few that weren’t beaten to a pulp were knocked unconscious and dragged away towards a fate unknown to me.
When the massacre had ended I sat at my desk, utterly stunned at what I had just witnessed. I hadn’t felt that bad since I watched Thane Krios die in Mass Effect 3. It almost rivaled the death of Big Boss at the end of Metal Gear Solid 4, and that is a moment that will live with me for as long as I play video games.
I felt absolutely, positively terrible. But you know what really gets me? The fact that I keep repeating that moment again and again, and always feel the same way at the end. Time and time again, I go back to Rimworld and build a colony out of the ashes of the old, only to watch it return to the earth again. It’s like watching a video of a high rise apartment being built and then demolished in a never ending loop.
That’s when I asked myself do I like feeling this way? Do people actually enjoy feeling crappy every now and then? It’s not just exclusive to gamers either; it’s also something movie lovers and avid book readers subject themselves to on a fairly regular basis. Maybe it has something to do catharsis, or maybe we’re all just masochists.
This is why I ask myself why I play Rimworld.