As readers this column knows, there is no shame in a game for mobile devices. Despite the fact that at one point in my not-so-distant past I was ashamed of my consumption of cheesy phone games, Merge Mansion captured my soul and in the process transformed my relationship with mobile games and social media. Inclusion in Merge Mansion it allowed me to turn off doomscrolling.
Before we go any further, a moment of honesty: This was not planned. I wasn’t trying to avoid social media when I clicked on an Instagram ad Connect (clear). Instead, by investing in a mobile game instead of a console game, I was able to train my lizard brain to open Connect— not Twitter, TikTok or Instagram — every time I reached for my phone. This turns out to be a lot easier than getting into the habit of picking up a controller instead of your phone.
How did this happy accident happen? Like (I’m guessing) many of you, my nights over the past year have started to take on a toxic form that always ended with me absentmindedly picking up my phone and just… scrolling. I wouldn’t even realize I was doing it until my alarm went off at 10pm, reminding me to get ready for bed. I became the reason journalist Karen K. Ho started sending reminders to people on Twitter telling them to put away their devices. It was unhealthy; I never really relaxed and every morning I would wake up feeling anything but rested.
Then I started playing Merge Mansion. The game works by producing objects and then connecting them. In order to produce items, you have to spend energy and eventually it runs out. It only takes about 15 minutes to deplete your resources, so there are plenty of natural stopping points built in. Unlike doomscrolling, which can evaporate hours of your life before you know it, Merge MansionThe energy mechanic makes it easier to keep track of the time you spend in the game. It is, simply put, much easier fun.
Using social media is not nearly as acceptable. Trust me, I tried. I tried hiding certain apps away from the home screen; I set screen time limits. At one point I even tried to remove them entirely, but as someone who relies on social media professionally, it just wasn’t practical.
Mobile games have become a hole. Instead of deleting Twitter or TikTok, I just kept the games on my home screen. Now when I pull out my phone, they’re the first thing I see. And not only Merge Mansion, was. I play too Family farm adventure. It’s not that I’ve convinced myself not to open social media apps—it’s that I don’t to wish yes more. I’d rather play games.
And you know what? I don’t care if I spend the whole evening playing. It’s fun, relaxing and satisfying. I get a real sense of accomplishment when I upgrade a building or clean mud out of a fountain. And I usually end up playing for 15 or 30 minutes and then I go find a book or turn on the TV.
It can even be seen in my mobile habits: before I started playing Merge Mansion, I spent about two hours a day on Twitter. Now it’s an hour a day on mobile gaming and only half an hour—sometimes less—on the toxic bird app. Mobile gaming has truly improved my quality of life, and it hasn’t even required any real work on my part.
While some people have been lucky enough to replace doomscrolling with handheld gaming, that’s not the case for me. I absolutely love my Switch (and my new Steam Deck – more on that in the coming weeks), but the key for me is that the games are on my phone. I don’t have to keep another device within arm’s reach to access the games. Since my doomscrolling is an automatic bad habit, I had to make the solution automatic as well. For me, that meant mobile.
If you’re not much of a mobile gamer but are interested in getting started, try downloading a few types of titles. I find merge and upgrade games to be the most successful for me. I don’t necessarily like free games where you end up property to shell out the money to make it work (although I definitely bought some extra packs Merge Mansion without any guilt – it protects my mental health, OK?). It’s worth experimenting to see what works and what looks good on a smaller screen (many iOS mobile games look better on the iPad).
Either way, if you’re looking to break that scrolling habit of doom, it’s worth digging into. Speaking of digging, get ready to plant some flowers Merge Mansion.