I love food. For anybody that knows me, I think everything can be analogized to food. Thankfully Ethic keeps me in check here, for without him this would probably be Kill Ten Rats and Grill. Well this is random week, and here is my one random topic thinly veiled as a gamer topic. Gamer food is important for MMO players, especially. We have to maintain strength and energy through long weekend raids. One poorly chosen meal gobbled down during a bio break can lead to some unwanted gastrointestinal problems right in the middle of the boss fight. We need mental stamina from good meals so we can stay out of the poop, in all senses.
Many of us have skipped entire meals during gaming marathons in lieu of a bag of potato chips or some Twinkies. The most recent Digital Cowboys podcast (thanks to Andrew from Of Teeth and Claws for telling me about the podcast) records a gaming marathon. Interestingly enough one of the hosts discussed with some experts on how to sustain the crew through the pixel popping nights. The answer: stay away from processed sugars, fats, and energy drinks. The Digital Cowboys ate lots of fruit, juice, pasta, and most importantly, cold water.
The stereotypical gamer food will actually impede the ability to stay up well past the midnight hour. Caffeinated soda and energy drinks will give a momentary burst of lucidity, but the quick energy will cause a sugar crash shortly thereafter. High calorie snacks like chips and snacky cakes will just slow us down into a sleepy siesta state ready for hibernation.
Healthy snacking is the way to go. My personal favorite snacks are baby-cut carrots. They are cheap. They are easy on the digestive system (compared to gassy broccoli and celery). And, I can sin a little and dip them in to ranch dressing. Peanut butter, I know, would be an improvement and give me a hit of protein as well. Dried fruit and nuts are also good choices. The added bonus is the lack of crumbs in the keyboards and computer chairs.
The choice of drinks goes hand in hand with healthy snacking. Now, I won’t even touch the issue of alcohol, and I have had plenty of game nights accompanied with a few beers or a bottle of wine. Those nights were not important guild event nights where my inebriated, clever jokes impeded on other’s fun. I digress. The most important thing when staying up late or gaming for a long time is to stay hydrated. Soda, energy drinks, and coffee actually dehydrate the gamer. And pro-tip: dehydration makes people tired. This is my biggest problem because I love soda. Love it. Water is so bland by comparison. I’ve found juice is a good middle ground, but don’t get any high-fructose corn syrup 10% juice. Get 100% juice.
With snacking out of the way, let’s get to meals. Some MMO game events can become all day affairs. Even if the event does not run through a meal time, after a long tour de force, MMO gamers can be “too tired” to make a meal. Hot pockets or fast food becomes the fallback point. Pizza is also another time-worn choice. Filled with fat and processed carbs, these meals are more likely to knock a gamer out than provide the refreshment to continue gaming.
There are too many options for refreshing meals for me to list. Grilled chicken* salad and tuna macaroni salad are two good choices that can be loaded with veggies and the dressing tailored to taste. My favorite is tacos de carnitas. Buy ~4 lb. pork butt (pork shoulder), cube into 1-1.5 inch cubes, throw in a crock pot with cumin seeds, bay leaves, garlic cloves, fill with Coca-Cola** until meat is nearly covered, turn on low, and walk away for 6-8 hours. When you are hungry fill a tortilla with quickly shredded pork, salsa, sour cream, cilantro, onion, and/or whatever else, and you have a quick anytime meal that can easily be chowed down during a bio break. If you want to go more traditional, pair the tacos with radish slices.
With all of this, I must confess I am no saint. The last MMO snack I had was a big bag of Spicy Thai Kettle Chips. When I woke up the next morning, the aftereffects were not pretty. Many times I go to bed depressed because I am tired and am wondering if my gaming was worth the time. I wonder how often this feeling was created by my nutritional decisions, or lack thereof, instead of my actual play. Spring is coming, and my CSA bucket should be filling soon. In writing this, I have thrown down the gauntlet to myself. I’ll let you know how it goes.
*I find grilling a few chicken breasts on Sunday to use through the week for meals, pastas, salads, etc. has been extremely helpful. Plus it gives me an excuse to do man things with dead animals and fire every week.
**Let me restate: only Coca-Cola. Not Pepsi. Not Sam’s Club Fizz. There is no substitute beside a stock cut with water, or merely water with extra salt and seasonings. Sugar-cane Coca-Cola is best, but can be hard to find.