Cosy games like Stardew Valley still maintain 'the grind' mentality
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Featured Image Credit: ConcernedApe
I love a cosy game. There’s nothing more inviting on a rainy day than curling up under your blanket, snuggling down into its plush depths, a steaming mug of tea on the table, and a cosy game on your console.
For many of us, myself included, cosying up with a cosy game allows us to escape the “grind” of daily life, in which everything feels like it travels a mile a minute – get this done now, work overtime, pay bills, never take a holiday. Real life can start to weigh us down, with a desire to retreat into nature, to an off-the-grid location, often at the back of our thoughts.
Watch the Stardew Valley trailer for nothing other than the sweet, sweet soundtrack
Yet, when we play games like Stardew Valley or Fae Farm, are we actually getting away from the grind mentality? We definitely have a change of scenery, but we still run errands for everyone and the pigs on our farms, we still have to go into the mines and find ore despite the blacksmith being the more obvious choice, and we always have a crisis to solve. In truth, the grind never stops.
Take the simple task of harvesting your crops every morning; it’s a minimal task when you first start out, but soon you have acres of farm growing every crop available, with you having to dash around to try and get them watered and fertilised before the day is wasted. It’s such a common issue that ConcernedApe tweeted about it.
Calculating crop profits, skull cavern diving, remembering birthdays are all so relaxing— r/StardewValley (@rStardewValley) December 19, 2023
posted by u/defectivelaborer. Post url: https://t.co/SrBxzQL5p1 #StardewValley #Stardew pic.twitter.com/TqqwVFxAB2
But what of games that don’t offer watering systems, like Fae Farm? Well, they force you to either grind it out to get enough resources to build the moisture-retentive soil, or you keep your farm small but lose profit. Add the burning heat of summer or the frozen tundra of winter into the mix and you’re getting through a lot of food and/or potions to keep everything afloat.
As much as I love Fae Farm, there were moments when I sighed deeply at having to go on another resource run after just spending the previous day doing the exact same thing. Yes, a sense of challenge is good, but with cosy games shouldn’t the emphasis be on it not feeling pressurised? Despite being able to drag the days out if you so wish, it makes the game incredibly dull when you spend a whole week tending to your farm because you’ve chosen not to rush.
There’s a distinct lack of balance.
None of this will prevent me from eagerly loading up yet another variation of the classic farming sim format, however, I will argue vehemently that our escapism games aren’t idealising anything. I mean sure, you’re not stuck in some dead-end job in them, and you’re normally magical in some way like Tara in Wylde Flowers, but you’re still getting up, getting mundane sh*t done, then going to bed exhausted (assuming you don’t pass out and someone robs you).
I guess, when all is said and done, the grind is built into everything we do, even the games we so love. It forces us onward, encouraging us to the next quest and then the next, until all we know, even via our entertainment, is how to be a cog in a larger machine. Though, at least with video games, it’s a more idyllic larger machine.