Right now I have a list of games I want to play and games that I already own but have not yet finished (Bloodborne, Doom, The Last of Us…) but sometimes I just want to chill and not think about how many times Vicar Ameila has killed me, the zombie apocalypse or demons invading Mars. So I sit there and look through my more “chill” games but everything involves killing in some way or another. So when all is said and done down the only game that constitutes as an Oasis of calm in my gaming library is Stardew Valley. Until I get addicted to it that is. I actually meant to write this post about Stardew ages ago but was, ironically, too addicted to Stardew to get time to write it.
Despite the constant need to be researching which vegetables I should be growing, how much wood I need to build a barn, which gifts will be best received by which characters, and what I need to make crab pots, Stardew Valley is so relaxing. I often find that this is the case with simulators, I’ll play them addictively for a while, then suddenly I’ll snap out of it and just stop. I don’t know how they make chopping wood for almost an entire Stardew day (about 20 minutes) so compelling but I need that barn, dammit! If you do actually know what it is that makes games like this so addictive please say so in the comments, I’ve been wondering about it for a while now! I imagine it has something to do with a built up rewards system (i.e. if you chop enough wood you’ll get a barn, which means you get cows, which means you get milk, cheese, better food, more money… and then you can afford to build this other thing!)
My pixel dependency aside I’ve wanted to give this game some love for a while now, even though it’s been out for over a year, because it really deserves it and I think that if you haven’t tried it yet you should give it a go, even if it’s not the sort of game you usually play! At first everything is simply adorable and perfect in the Stardew community and you’re focused on getting your farm built up and all the little missions you get. Shane Storyline Spoilers Ahead! On my first farm I accidentally made Shane my bestie by giving him 2 beers, one as a normal gift and one on what I did not realise was his birthday then I was treated to a cut-scene where he opens up to you about his depression and my idyllic view of Stardew came crashing down, I started paying more attention to the characters’ stories – particularly Shane’s as I was emotionally invested – and all these characters have different problems and well thought out personalities. Shane’s story delves into his drinking problems, his depression and finally his attempt to kill himself. It’s so surprising to find that content in a game that appears to be a simple simulator/RPG at first glance and the fact that it addresses the current, real life issue of suicide in men is brilliant. Other stories range from dealing with PTSD to self-doubt to just discovering unexpected quirks and aspects of a character’s personality that you wouldn’t have expected them to have…
On to a happier topic now though: Freedooooom!!! I have addressed this somewhat before in my post about different gaming styles where I compared my farm to my other half’s farm. Dan enjoys focusing on making as much money as he can, as quickly as he can but I found that a little too stressful, I didn’t enjoy having a military like schedule for growing my plants and only getting the things that I knew would make me the most money (I only knew this in the first place because almost every day he texted me tips about how to make more money on the farm, if you think my obsession is bad you should have seen what he was like). I gave in to the money making a bit on my first farm and eventually stopped playing but now I have started a new farm with no particular aim, I just want to have fun with it. If I want to build something I’m going to build it, profits be damned! Due to my current marathoning of Ru Paul’s Drag Race I’ve also made that the theme for my farm and character (just because I can), allow me to introduce you to Farmer Fishy Queen of Slaaaaay Farm and the proud owner of a cat named Mew Pawl (Sharon Sheeples, Jinx Moosoon, and Shantneigh to follow as soon as I have a barn and stable).
I like that while you may think the overall aim is to get as much money as possible and build your farm up (because after 3 years your Grandfather appears and judges the success of your farm) that’s by no means what you have to do, you can focus on whatever you want. So as an example of 3 different play styles there’s Dan getting as much money as he can, I just want my farm to look super pretty and see what everything does, and my sister (who also plays it) focuses on building relationships with all the villagers, and that’s just us! I chose the fishing farm and each island has a different theme, so far there’s Animal island and Fishing island, soon I’ll be making Craft island where I’ll make jam, cheese and all that. I think that this kind of freedom is what makes the game so relaxing, there’s no pressure to do any missions you don’t want to do, there’s no need to play it in any certain way, it’s just a nice, chill time for everyone.
Have you played Stardew Valley? What do you think it is about games like this that makes them so addictive? Which games do you play to relax?