The world is currently going wild over Palworld. Some people love it. Some people hate it. And nearly everyone has a take (or a take on all the takes), creating one of the worst discourse storms I’ve digitally sailed through in some time. But I’m not here to discuss any of that. Instead, I’m here to admit that I’m so done with survival games and punching trees.
The history of survival games isn’t as clear-cut as I’m about to make it, yet in my mind, it all more or less starts with Minecraft in 2009. And I’ll admit the first time I booted up that game, back when it was unfinished alpha, I sunk a huge amount of time into it. Back then, Minecraft’s crafting, survival, and building mechanics were captivating and fresh. They lured me (and many others) into spending far too many late nights playing until the sun came up. The idea of spawning into a fresh, randomly generated world, finding supplies, and using those resources to build a new life in this strange pixel-block world was different than any other game I had played up until that point. And even today, I’ll still play a bit of Minecraft as it scratches an almost nostalgic itch at this point.
Because Minecraft was (and still is) so damn popular, many copycats, clones, and games that were partially inspired by Mojang’s breakout hit launched in the years after its release. Some of these were good! Some of them were bad. And almost all of them forced you to punch trees and collect rocks to start. That’s why I call these games “tree punchers.”
Palworld, like so many other tree punchers in recent years, tries to hide this fact or build upon it with new ideas—like adding guns and Pokémon-like creatures. It doesn’t matter though, because the problem with tree punchers isn’t really about punching trees.
No matter how much a tree puncher might try to disguise itself or add new ideas to the formula, ultimately they all open with you (possibly naked) punching trees, collecting rocks, and scrounging around to survive. This was fun and exciting in Minecraft years and years ago. Today, it just feels like busy work. I know what’s coming. I know that I’m being forced to slowly collect resources using my fists and awful wooden tools that break quickly so that, eventually, I’ll be so happy to never punch another tree or rock again once I’ve unlocked better, faster ways to farm materials.
And I’m just not interested in this loop anymore. It feels like a bad job.
It doesn’t matter that while I’m punching trees a Pikachu-looking animal is nearby making silly noises. It doesn’t matter that I’m a Viking warrior. It can’t fully distract from the fact that the main reason to collect resources and craft stuff in tree punchers is so that the boring, slow, and annoying parts of the tree puncher become things you can mostly avoid. I’m punching all these trees and building all this crap so that hours from now, I won’t have to do that.
The thing is: I can also just not play these games anymore and free myself from all the hours of resource collecting and rock grabbing. And with one exception (Lego Fortnite) I’ve realized that I’m burnt out and tired of tree punchers. So nowadays, when a new game goes viral and I check it out as part of my job, I can stop playing it if the first thing I have to do is punch a tree. I’m already familiar with this song and dance and I’m not interested in it. (Unless of course, the game is something I’m trying to review or play for work. But that’s a different, weird situation that most people don’t have to deal with.)
For those who still enjoy these games, please keep playing them and loving them! For me though, yeah, I’m done punching trees. There are better mindless grinds to do in other games.