Endless runner games are popular, and I like to play them sometimes. But when I play them, I’m always asking myself whether it makes me feel more stressed out or less. If the game is easy to play, it’s boring and I don’t stick with it. If it’s challenging to play, I definitely want to stick with it but I can get, um, kind of worked up about a game if I keep failing, losing, or dying. While I’m pretty sure match-3 games like Bejeweled and Candy Crush Saga are stress relief games, I’m definitely on the the fence about the stress relief factor in endless runner games.

When you play endless runners, your character runs (or sometimes rides a vehicle) and you have to dodge obstacles, pick up objects, and so on. You have no control over the speed. When you make it to the end of a level, there’s always another level to run.

Jet Pack Joyride Endless Runner game

The character rides a dragon in Jetpack Joyride. If you get that far.

I started my endless runner career with a game called Jetpack Joyride. It’s pretty fun. I showed it to my son, and he said, “Glad you like it, Mom, but I don’t play games I can’t eventually win.” And that is one thing about these games. You can run on and on and on. Endlessly.

Another thing about these games is that you can buy and buy and buy. There are endless microtransactions. You can buy stuff to resurrect yourself, protect yourself, or make yourself look cool.

Lately I’ve been playing Relic Run, a slick and pretty iPad game in which you are Lara Croft and you run over, under, and through obstacles in your quest to collect artifacts. The thing is, it’s very fast moving and you can’t slow it down. So you end up running into walls, falling into holes, and generally killing Lara in grisly ways over and over again.

Every time Lara dies (about every 20 seconds if you play like me), you get to watch her twisted body twitch and die. After the death throes you’re offered merchandise that will help her continue her run, give her more armor, or clothe her in cute leather jackets. Or I can buy a whole bunch of stuff at once for what I consider to be ridiculous sums of money to spend on an iPad game. Big package of boosts and cute outfits for $99, anyone?

And yet…despite their disadvantages, there’s something about these kinds of games. You do get better at them if you keep at it. And you can’t really think about your worries when you’re playing. All you’re thinking about is how not to get smacked in the head again and die. And there’s something pretty relaxing about taking a little break from your workaday worries. Even if you are dying all the time.

Linda Breneman

Linda Breneman

Linda learned to play video games as a way to connect with her teenaged kids, and then she learned to love video games for their own sake. At Pixelkin she wrangles the business & management side of things, writes posts as often as she can, reaches out on the social media, and does the occasional panel or talk. She lives in Seattle, where she writes, studies, plays video games, spends time with her family, consumes vast quantities of science fiction, and looks after her small cockapoo. She loves to hear from people out there. You can read more about her at her website, Linda Breneman.com or her family foundation's website, ludusproject.org.