Fajitas Up!

I did not plan to make three food-related posts in a row on this blog that is ostensibly devoted to entertainment. It just turned out that way. Look on the bright side. I didn't write three posts in a row about my opinions on the capital gains tax or the societal debate about public breastfeeding. You could have stumbled onto a lot worse.

Today's culinary delight isn't a TV episode or a podcast, though. Today, we enter the realm of games. It was more than a year ago that I mentioned a branch of minigame that is so expansive in my gaming experience, it deserved its own entry. The day has come to discuss... Food-Related Time Management!

I always feel kind of silly when I admit how much I love this style of game, because the concept is kind of goofy. Customers appear in your shop (or restaurant or wedding reception or what-have-you), and put in their requests. You complete their orders, collect the cash, and send them on their way, hopefully with a smile on their faces. And that's basically all there is to it. The variations on this are endless. I kicked off this remarkable run of games with the classic Diner Dash series, in which you get bonuses for seating people wearing a particular color in the proper seats. Then came the Cake Mania series, in which you start off baking and icing a simple sheet cake, but which gets progressively more complicated when layers and toppings enter the equation. If old-fashioned decor is more your style, try out The Great Chocolate Chase, in which you sling candy bars and truffles with various flavor infusions to the full gamut of international customers, from hut-dwelling housewives with an infant dangling on their hip to kings and rani. In Go-Go Gourmet, you never even interact with your customers; you hold down the kitchen as the orders stream in from the dining room.

Conveyer belts deliver the components of your customers' meals in Burger Shop, which expands far beyond just cheeseburgers when breakfast items, soup, drinks, and dessert starts showing up. In Wedding Dash, you're more a party planner than a chef, seating guests next to the people they wish to hang out with, and making sure everyone gets all their courses and is having fun at the reception. A wide range of games under the "Papa" banner (Papa's Wingeria, Papa's Pastaria, Papa's Taco Mia, Papa's Freezeria, etc.) puts a roadside cafe in your care, making sure you can balance the demands of taking orders, cooking, and plating. And though the tasks are similar from game to game, the designers are not inept at incorporating story. The Delicious series features a protagonist named Emily, as the games progress, we learn more about her family, love life, and developing career in between the challenge of making sure the turkey stays basted and the cookies aren't burning.

I've taken a fair share of guff for enjoying these games so much. Partly, it's because they come off as the chicklit of the video gaming world. Trust me, if you run across another dude who refers to himself as a gamer, he's probably not talking about making sure the hot wings have an even coating of sauce. The bigger confusion comes from people who ask me if playing these games isn't more work than fun. "That looks so frustrating," they say. And I can see where they're coming from, but I honestly get a sincere burst of pleasure when I close out the restaurant for the day with an expert score and happy customers. Some guys get a sense of accomplishment when they crush an opposing army or rescue the princess from the tower. But me? My big sense of accomplishment comes when the bride tells me that everyone had a blast at her party.


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