We’ve seen this game before in many variations. Harvest Moon helped streamline simulation-RPGs in the 90s. Animal Crossing helped popularize the genre as well.
Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One won’t be the first film about simulation gaming. However, it once again introduces the conversation about how we embrace alternate realities and what we can learn about ourselves from them
After pressing start on the menu screen your introduced to Stardew Valley with a cutscene about the passing of your grandfather and an inheritance that you will obtain when your life becomes mundane and you can no longer stand it.
You see your created character wasting away in a cubicle when he/she withdraws the letter. Your grandfather leaves you a farm in Stardew Valley. Your character leaves their job to live on that farm
The thing that has really stuck with me in my multiple hours of gameplay is the subtleties of what remains in that story. The growth of your character, your farm, your community are all fascinated.
My wife and I play side-by-side and it’s intriguing how differently we prioritize certain things. What does that say about us, who we are?
I’m reading Jane McGonigal’s book “Reality is Broken” about how much of our analytical brainpower goes into serial gaming. Our lives are comfortably consistent with our jobs and day-to-day woes.
I can do my job blindfolded some days, so it’s not farfetched to say, in the past month, that my problem-solving skills have been hard at work playing Stardew Valley. Figuring out when/how to grow my garden or profit from my farm.
There’s untapped potential in the idea that our lives aren’t as fulfilling as our virtual realities. For gamers, this may be especially true. McGonigal explores concepts of integrating these lives so the reward-system of our brains is more fulfilled outside these virtual worlds.
It’s worth a deeper discussion than a few paragraph blogpost, but what I can say is non-story based games have ways of revealing things about ourselves.
Projecting ourselves onto these virtual sprites and playing in a way that suits our perspectives or motives – there’s so much power in that. We should talk about that more.