My son just turned five months old, but he already knows his favorite game: Wreck-Shit.

It doesn’t matter what it is, if Zeek can get his hands on it, he wants to wreck it. This is how he learns what things are made of — their heft and feel — and what happens when you smash them together. He doesn’t care why, he just wants to get his hands on shit and wreck it.

We don’t exactly grow out of this. I realized that when wrecking shit in Dark Messiah last week. There I was, carefully kicking the shit out of some orcs, trying to knock them back into spikes — when it hit me: this is a great Wreck-Shit game. A few of these lumbering hulks stomped towards me as I baited them under a ruined archway — I slashed the archway’s exposed wood and the whole thing wreck-fumbled on top of them. Shit wrecked? Not quite. I still had to get close, charge my sword arm and stab them in the heart while they lay on the ground. Okay, now we can call it: these orcs and their ruined temple are officially (you guessed it:) Wrecked Shit.

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You might be tempted to label all action games Wreck-Shit games, but it’s not official unless there’s a need to call the insurance company. We’re talking heavy environmental devastation.

For instance, I don’t know if we’ll ever get a better Wreck-Shit game than Red Faction Guerilla. There’s just something great about remote charges and a big damn hammer — then being told, “have fun on this ‘abandoned’ set of buildings.” Say what you will about the rest of that game, I just loved wrecking giant towers and then guessing “Which Way Is It Gonna Fall?” to roll out of the way in-time.

Professional demolition this ain’t — and that’s what’s great about it.

Wreck-Shit games make us feel like we matter — like our decisions have weight, heft, and clear consequences. They embody “power” at its core, and a deep sense of feeling like what you do affects the world. It’s also why the question of “what do you do?” in a game is so damn important to players. We want to play games that take impact and interaction seriously.

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Minecraft and Grand Theft Auto are popular because they’re fundamentally about about wrecking shit. In Minecraft, you wreck-shit until it’s broken down into its base material, then build with that shit, which can be quite fun to wreck (especially on your buddies’ server). And Grand Theft Auto has never been about the story and the main missions, but about creating the most epic catastrophe in a public and populated setting. I mean, nobody talks about running over a corner full of prostitutes (and their Johns — who are in cars) with a military-grade tank because it’s a central plot point. That’s just what players want to do; because deep in their bones they see the game as an opportunity to safely play Wreck-Shit on a massive scale.

There’s a core inside of our hearts to discover how things work. Some might decry it all as a deeply destructive nature (and that might be true) but there’s also this longing to see how shit breaks-down — in a safe environment. Video games are the best place to play Wreck-Shit because they’re within the safety of a virtual environment.

And it doesn’t hurt that there’s zero cleanup — just press the reset button!

When I see my son play Wreck-Shit (with whatever he can get his hands on), I see something deeply good. A desire to take the world on, and figure out what it means to sink your fingers into tangible mechanics. Granted, the real consequences of wrecking shit should always be acknowledged, but there’s a time for building Lego Duplo Block towers — just to bust through it as if you’re Godzilla wrecking shit.