Living The Doritos Lifestyle (And Why It’ll Stuff Your Belly And Sap Your Dreams)

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 7.236% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

A friend of mine was complaining about videogames – specifically, open-world videogames. Because yes, technically, you’ve been given all of this free space to wander, an infinite number of possibilities…

…yet all the missions boil down to “Go here and kill these people” or “Go here and touch this thing” or “Go here and kill these people so you can touch this thing.” If you’re lucky they dress it up in different narrative clothing – that thing you have to touch is a bomb switch to save the orphanage from being blown up, or it’s twenty bear asses – but mechanically, it’s all pretty much identical.

I agreed with him. And yet I’ve beaten all the Elder Scrolls and Fallouts out there, ticking off quest after quest until all the quests are checked.

And I wondered: Is that fun?

And the answer is: Sorta.

I’ll admit it: I have a lot more enjoyment in the early stages of any videogame – the parts where I’m still working out what strategies are optimal, what these controls do, what my powers are or will be. And then, invariably, I get to the level where I’ve found my killer strategies, and…

It’s Dorito-eating time.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with Doritos, but let’s be honest: only the most dedicated of stoners savors a Dorito. Mostly you stuff them into your face because the taste is familiar, and they’re just enough of a burst of taste that it triggers some sense of satiation within you – but, importantly, not enough taste to feel you’ve had enough.

I think a lot of us have arrived at the bottom of a bag of Doritos by surprise – we didn’t think we were munching that many. Because Doritos are eating without being engaged.

Likewise, lots of videogame quests are designed to fill that “You’re playing something just engaging enough to feel like you’re accomplishing something, but not enough that you’ll get exhausted and quit.” Is it good? Well, like the Doritos, after a while you do it without paying full attention, so “good” is a weird definition. I mean, a lot of the time people eat the Doritos on some form of autopilot because it’s there and it’s something….

And so are those videogame quests. Will you remember them a year or even a month from now? No. Are they interesting? Well, interesting enough. They’ll let you slide through an evening in a sort of meditative trance. But when the spell is done, there you are, three hours gone and a couple of levels higher but not much has happened.

A lot of modern culture is designed around Doritos-style entertainment. The people at Doritos know how to create a chip that would be flavorful enough to shock you out of eating more. But that would mean that you would eat less Doritos, so they purposely engineer all that cool ranch flavor to ensure that the taste sails in between those shoals of “too bland to eat” and “so interesting there’s a finite amount you can consume.”

Savoring an experience takes focus, and effort – at least for most of us. And when we get home at the end of a hard work day, there’s the question of whether we want to eat one perfect piece of cheese that will fulfill us but we have to concentrate on, or just chow down on what’s there today and get full without effort.

But remember: you’ve got a whole marketing department that’s playing to your exhaustion.

This isn’t a condemnation of the Doritos lifestyle, though. We all have days where we want that comfort reading – those simple romance stories or potboiler fantasy novels where we know what we’re getting, and it’s our brain-goes-on-autopilot treat. I mean, I’ve got my level 82 dude on Fallout 4 because hey, I enjoy my own Doritos gaming moments.

But if you’re not careful, your whole life can slide into that Doritos crunch. You can fall into a repetitive numbness where you watch the Doritos reality shows and play the Doritos quests and eat the Doritos bags and then wonder at the end of the day why you feel vaguely sick from overeating but have never felt satisfied.

The answer is that sometimes, you gotta break free and turn the brain on for a bit so you can ramp your appreciation neurons all the way to the max, spiking out on joy so your brain can say, “YES, THAT’S IT, I’VE HIT IT, NOW I GOTTA SLEEP THANKS.”

Otherwise, in the Doritos lifestyle, you never sleep. You just… drift off. And the thin dreams you can grab are the dreams of an uncomfortably full belly attempting to digest something that’s really ultimately not healthy.

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