On Monday, January 17, most of southern Ontario was hit by a massive snowstorm. I’m talking like, a solid five feet of snow piling up outside. Roads were closed, workers stayed at home; it was pandemonium.
During the day, I looked out my driveway window as the snow piled up and thought, “I have to get out and shovel this,” but the disheartening reality of going out in the cold, with a little shovel to remove five feet of snow also made me think, “I really don’t want to do that.” So instead I turned on my Switch and started playing Growth: Evertree Song.
And I realized something strange had happened as I fell into the relaxing monotony of tending to my garden, to earning materials to build my town – I was putting off work in the real world, to work in a video game.
It’s something that has always fascinated me, ever since animal crossing released on GameCube in 2002. As I’ve said many times, I immediately fell in love with the game, but I had a friend who absolutely hated it, saying “why would I play a game, to do chores?” I can just do that in real life. At the time, my reasons for enjoying these kinds of games came from my own loneliness and my desire for a world I could belong to, but at the time, I never really knew what drew me to them. .
“I was postponing work in the real world, to work in a video game.”
Even before animal crossingone of my favorite games was harvest moon—I even remember one New Year’s Eve where I was forced to interact with other kids I didn’t know, and after arguing with one of them, my dad told me took me to another room where I could be alone with my Gameboy and harvest moon 2; By then I was happier than I had been all night.
harvest moon was unlike any game I was playing at the time – at the time our collection of games was pretty sparse, so Donkey Kong Country, Kirby’s Superstar, and Super Mario RPG were in constant rotation. Unlike the fast-paced action or simple strategy (which I haven’t fully grasped) of these games, harvest moon was slower and more methodical; gratification being much more delayed.
In the pre-internet era of the late 90s and early 2000s, it’s probably a little easier to see how a kid might be drawn to a game like harvest moon: its gameplay was simple enough to understand, and engaging enough to want to participate in it; and it provided a sense of structure and routine that the children responded to. the CDC website actually lists consistency, predictability, and followability as essential building structure components that are crucial in helping children develop healthy, positive behaviors. However, these guidelines are vague and things like development and general attention span can alter them.
“…I had a friend who hated it categorically, stating ‘why would I play a game, to do chores? I can just do that in real life.
However, you can see how these elements come into play in a game like harvest moon. The tasks you need to do each day are simple and easy to accomplish: plant your seeds, water them daily, harvest them when they’re ready. The rules in place are consistent and predictable, and if you break them, you must suffer the consequences. You need to be aware of your energy and manage your tasks; if you don’t, your crops will wither and you won’t have money to plant more seeds or buy food that can restore them. If you don’t take care of your animals, they will get sick and die.
harvest moon, in its first iteration, contained the building blocks to foster positive structure and growth for a child, but this obviously had to be balanced correctly – looking at my own past; since video games were my way of trying to escape my own life, i often neglected my own duties to play harvest moonwhere I had more control and felt safer.
Nowadays, with technology so widely available and accessible to children; a game like harvest moon probably wouldn’t grab anyone’s attention, not when a parent’s phone or tablet can be immediately accessed and piloted to YouTube with such ease. Even adults enjoy an almost constant stream of instant gratification, whether through technology, social media, or video games deceptively designed to manipulate their players and exploit their impatience.
“The CDC’s website actually lists consistency, predictability, and followability as essential building blocks, which are crucial in helping children develop healthy, positive behaviors.”
But it’s not like farming/living Sims have fallen out of favor. Quite the contrary in fact, with Minecraft and Stardew Valley being among the most watched games on Twitch, not to mention the popularity of Animal Crossing: New Horizons during the pandemic. Just as times have changed, so have these games, moving beyond their simple origins to provide more engaging experiences. These games now stand out by having a to win over.
That’s part of the reason why I couldn’t get into The Sims 4 when I saw him again in 2017; there really wasn’t anything new or interesting, and too much of the game involved constantly tending to the most needy creatures in video game history. I never felt like I was progressing and it was boring. By comparison, a game like Growth: Evertree Song finds an engaging way to streamline certain elements of farming sims, while implementing them uniquely into its larger metagame.
In Growth: Evertree Song, you play as a young alchemist living on the titular Evertree, which was once a bastion of light and magic. Driven by a magical force known as ‘The Song’, many alchemists flourished and created a prosperous city beneath Evertree, until a mysterious and dark force known as ‘The Withering’, corrupted Evertree and drove out its inhabitants.
“A game like Growth: Evertree Song finds an interesting way to streamline some of the elements of farming simulations”
Not only does it utilize and streamline the daily routine function of most farming sims, but it seamlessly integrates it into the narrative necessity of city building and management elements, creating a unique, easy-to-obtain experience. lost in – coupled with excellent visual style and detail.
Corn Growth: Evertree Song is one of the lesser known indie games, only released in November 2021. But even if you watch something as widely loved as Minecrafteven it transcended its own borders in that, if I remember correctly, my brother and I spent a good eight hours mining, crafting, and building in its world.
Minecraft features like virtual Legos, allowing players to collect and assemble anything their imaginations can conjure up; and while this level of unlimited freedom is new in itself, in the game’s survival mode we can see an adherence to a positive structure that makes it so engaging. The stakes are higher, as you are forced to gather materials and find shelter to survive not only through the night, but also in some of the most dangerous caves and mines.
“Minecraft features like virtual Legos, allowing players to collect and assemble whatever their imaginations can conjure up…”
So not only is it deeply engaging and creative, but it establishes a familiar routine of mining in the daytime, surviving the night that’s easy to become absorbed in, and there are serious consequences for venturing too away or approach a dangerous situation unprepared – if you die carrying a lot of valuable materials, you will lose everything.
It’s something kids and adults alike can easily grasp and put in for hours, setting small goals and working long and hard to achieve them. It provides the same sense of accomplishment and satisfaction as real work, but from the comfort of our sofas.
Video games have always been seen as a distraction, and understandably so. It’s easy to get distracted from our daily tasks by games that allow us to discover fantastic worlds and accomplish incredible feats. But there’s certainly something to be said for the simple charm of simulation games that tap into our innate sensitivity to want to see a task done.