I was talking with a friend lately about how much capitalism/neoliberalism ascribes our value to our productivity, and the stress that creates when we don’t come up to meet those external pressures, and I realized that I felt that very same stress playing Stardew Valley.
This isn’t to say it isn’t an excellent game, but I felt like it mirrored my life situation a little too closely. Even though there weren’t any hard-and-fast deadlines, I always felt like the days were ending way too quickly, and that I hadn’t gotten nearly as much done as I would’ve liked. My farm never grew too big, and my harvests were slow to grow and not terribly productive or profitable when they did. I’d wake up early to try and fish for a while, but my catches would get away from me, and by the time I was done, most of the shops were already closed. I did what I thought was the most I could every day, and I was still barely scraping by a few virtual months in. I spent as much time as I could spare between all of my other activities trying to befriend the townspeople, but I never got more than a couple hearts with any one of them, and I felt weirdly isolated after those first months.
I still enjoyed the game a lot, but I wasn’t expecting it to hit so close to home for me. Has anyone else had a similar experience with a game?
I have been recovering from a really bad breakup, had to leave the place I was living and will be taking some financial hits from it for the rest of 2017.
But there was one bright light, and that’s what I had been holding onto all through the worst year, 2016. It’s what I had seen as the other side of this breakup. That was the confirmed release date of Persona 5.
I got the game and as soon as I started playing, I was being berated from all ends of the game’s society, from this person that was appointed my guardian to the Velvet Room proprietors to my teachers, fellow students and shifty-ass cops. Yet I didn’t feel I’d done anything wrong. It didn’t feel that different from what I had been living, and cartoonishly harsh as it was, it really struck me.
As the game continued, I’ve found myself hating going to the dungeons and really just wanting to spend time in Tokyo with my team of thieves and other acquaintances that I become closer and closer to. I’m not ready to go do this in real life again yet.
I feel like it’s a little too on the nose to say that my social anxiety follows me into games, multiplayer ones especially, even co-op ones, but it’s super true. When I’ve been having a bad day relating to people, even as sterile and uncommunicative a multiplayer experience as Titanfall or some other deathmatch-style randomly matched game is going to feel bad for me. Just too much unpredictable behavior to track. MMOs like FFXIV are something of an exception for some reason, because I can play a tank and have nearly complete command of the flow of a dungeon, and people will generally follow my lead without my saying anything besides “Hello”.
This is interesting because I’ve always found the opposite. Multiplayer shooters I can do whatever, and hopefully friend somebody and play with them later just because they weren’t an awful person during the game.
But I find MMOs so isolating. It’s just this huge world full of people and all of them are doing their own thing and not caring about you one bit. (I did play a MUD back in the day that I ended up getting a lot of relationships out of… but I never really ended up capturing that feeling anywhere else).
I played Pokemon Moon. This is the one where the day-night cycle is offset twelve hours from your actual time for most of the “story”. I chose this version because I reasoned I’d mostly play it at night. Two things happened, neither of which helped:
(a) Whenever I played it very late at night, the daylight in-game reminded me of the sleep I was skipping in order to play a game.
(b) And whenever I played it during the day, it was dark and gloomy in the game. This would typically be on weekends or while traveling for work.
Something I value about Pokemon is that it’s a series where you don’t have to be a rush. Scenic routes are the best routes. Shorts are comfortable and easy to wear. Well, did that ever backfire. I hurried through Moon and haven’t returned to it since the credits rolled. I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.