The beauty of Stardew Valley is that you cannot fail and you cannot die.
December 16, 2017 1:05 PM   Subscribe

How Stardew Valley helped me cope with depressive episodes [VG24/7] “Games provide us with productive, hands on work away from dreary reality. We like to be challenged and stimulated in a way we control. However, when I’m not in the right frame of mind, I’m often overcome with guilt that I should be doing something ‘purposeful’ with my free time and sometimes my favourite games just don’t fulfill that need. If I spend countless hours playing competitive matches and somehow manage to lose rank, or lose an established Sims family in a fire, it feels as though those hours have been wasted and I have nothing to show for it. I come away more stressed than I was when the session began, like a bad day at work. There’s other times when I simply don’t feel up to the challenge of competitive games but don’t want the monotony of repetitive simulators. It’s a fragile line to balance. However, when it comes to indie farming-simulator Stardew Valley, there is none of that guilt or stress.”

• Understanding Mindfulness Through Stardew Valley [Geekadelphia]
“A core tenant of mindfulness is to accept that you cannot fail; that, no matter how inept you may think you are at practicing mindfulness, you are not a part of a skill hierarchy that determines you as “good” or “bad”. If anything, in mindfulness there is inexperienced and experienced, with the latter only having the advantage of spending more time with meditation and mindfulness than you have. During my brief meditative stint, this was the lesson that resonated with me most. We are bombarded on a daily basis with messaging that defines success as becoming the best. This inevitably propagates the understanding that life is a constant navigation between winning and losing. So, when I found a practice that doesn’t lean on these polarities, but rather strips them away and demands us to exist in a moment unjudged, it was gripping. Even though I continuously gave myself a hard time for being unable to disengage my mind and allow thoughts to pass through during meditation, I would always be comforted by the impossibility of failure: I cannot be “bad” at mindfulness, a sentiment that is echoed in Stardew.”
• Stardew Valley and using games as therapy [SA Gamer]
“It’s not as much the story and motivations of Stardew Valley that helped me, even if they were important, but rather the gameplay. Each day was routine, you’d go out into your farmland and water plants, plant new crops, fix up your house or go exploring in the caves for treasure. A routine. If you are a depressed person, you know how elusive the idea of a routine is. Often we spend the majority of the day asleep or wasting time doing meaningless activities that often involve further destroying ourselves. To get that semblance of normalcy is immensely helpful for a troubled mind. You can immerse yourself into the act of steady progress and planning your days ahead. Which seeds are you going to get, are you going to go fishing, will you visit your crush and give them a gift, will you go exploring the dangerous caves and have to plan for provisions and so on. You can capture a sense of a normal existence while being distracted from your own war inside of your mind.”
• Scavenging, Selling, & Spa Days: Self-Care in ‘Stardew Valley’ [FemHype]
“Every day in Stardew is full of opportunity. There is far more to do in a day than can ever get done, but time is not the limiting factor; your energy levels are. You’re only given a certain amount to get you through the in-game day, and each action uses up some of that energy. If you use up too much energy, you’ll become sluggish and have less to use the next day. As in real life, rest and recuperation is vital. The way that this mechanic is used in Stardew Valley also lines up closely with the Spoon Theory, a common concept in circles discussing disability and chronic illnesses. The theory uses spoons as a metaphorical unit of energy, and when one has used up all of their day’s spoons, they often have no choice but to rest. Or, if they overspend these spoons, they are borrowing from the next day’s reserve. Although Stardew does not use another key aspect of this theory—that the amount of spoons allocated per day is random and may sometimes be so low that even getting out of bed is a success—it nonetheless means that the game relies upon moderation and careful consideration of what is best for yourself.”
• One Day At A Time- How Stardew Valley Can Help Mental Health [Checkpoint]
“The thing I like most about Stardew Valley is the relaxing vibe of carrying out a day’s routine. I suffer from depression, which can often sap my motivation and make it difficult for me to get anything done. Stardew Valley is great to coax me into just doing something. It’s easy in the game to get out of bed and give my cat and crops water, feed my chickens, and check on my mushroom farm. Before I know it I’ve wandered down to the beach to see if any rare seashells have turned up, and while I’m there I might as well catch a few fish. Oh, I haven’t given Leah a gift today, and I think she’s at the Saloon tonight! I’ll buy her her favorite dinner (salad). There are a few other villagers here that need gifts, I’ll buy the bar a round of drinks as well. An affirming, meditative experience.”
• Hurt, Comfort, and Chickens [Minerva]
“When I really sat back and thought about it, I realized how important it was to have a storyline like this. Many geeky people such as myself who play these types of games often have varying degrees of anxiety and depression. Like Shane, we can come off as aloof to strangers because we build walls. So when people actively try to befriend us, we’re kind of baffled and don’t really know how to “friend” back. After dating Shane for about a year in the game, when I finally proposed to him, he still thought it was some kind of elaborate prank. (And let’s be real, it kind of did start off that way. It makes for a great “holy crap I pretended to fall for this person and actually did” rom-com trope.) Shane’s storyline is a great reminder to people struggling with mental health issues that they are not unlovable, and while they should be open-minded to new relationships, to know that healing doesn’t come from romance, but from finding meaning in this crazy blink-of-an-eye thing we call life (hence why this game could not come at a better time in my opinion). In Shane’s case, that’s through chickens, pizza rolls, and squishy things, and honestly, that’s A+ partner material right there.”
posted by Fizz (43 comments total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
As many MeFites are aware, I'm a fan of gaming. And this last year has been a great one and there have been some amazing games released from all genre and play types. That being said, I've found myself coming back to this game more so than any other (this and Binding of Isaac: Rebirth).

There's something very soothing about this game. I love how free and open it is. If you want to mine, you can just focus on mining. If you want to invest in grapes and grow a winery, go for it. If you want to spend your time growing fruits so that you can woo/date/marry certain NPCs, go ahead. The game lets you do things your way.

I've been focusing on growing fruits and I've barely paid attention to the dating/marriage aspect of the game. I know it's a big part of the game itself, but I'm trying to build up a large farm and a fair bit of money before I start to look at that particular part of the game.

And I love that I have this freedom, that I can go multiple seasons without feeling pressured to play a certain way. If I want to while away the hours just fishing and mining and avoid the other citizens, I can do that. I do appreciate that they'll still reach out to me from time to time to invite me to different places and events, but it's all up to me. And as many of the linked articles up above mention, you're not going to die. You might get injured battling in the mines, but you'll wake up the next morning safe and in your bed.

It's such a good feeling. I'm not worried about ranks or harassing voice chats. It's just me and whatever I want to do on my farm.
posted by Fizz at 1:53 PM on December 16, 2017 [14 favorites]

Factorio is the game like this for me. Engineering, not farming, but the same sense of incremental progress and constructive play without much stress or fear of failure. Base building games like Starcraft or Civilization would be this kind of game too but they add a combat system and goal that moves it from "fun construction tinkering" to "stressful game I must beat".
posted by Nelson at 2:23 PM on December 16, 2017 [4 favorites]

I came back to this game after about a six month hiatus. The premise of this thread holds true as I've been most certainly playing it as self-care during the stressful holidays. The great thing about the game is that the open-ended nature means that it can be exactly the kind of therapy you want it to me. For me, it's the ability to go through a successful routine that lacks the chaos and toxicity of real life.

It's also a great game to play while my young children watch, since it can be totally peaceful and you can discuss the various animals and crops and all of those things.

It really needs a quality of life pass that it will probably never get considering the dev team size of one. Mainly in the interface... if you have a ton of animals milking cows is a huge pain in the ass given that you have to line them up just right and then there's no interface telling you which cows you milked. There are some mods which help mitigate this, though.

If you start playing I highly recommend the sadly no-longer-updated Stardew Valley Diversity mod. Not only does it add diversity, but the new portraits are quite lovely.
posted by selfnoise at 2:30 PM on December 16, 2017 [6 favorites]

I'm at work, racing against the clock to get something done (it's 2344 on a saturday) and just reading some of those descriptions took me back to my time in Stardew valley and there was an immense sense of peace.
The whole thing is so well constructed to make a tiny world you can lose yourself in.

I realise I still have this bookmark sitting in my bookmark bar. It reminds me of the times Abigail and I used to sit in the graveyard and talk about adventuring.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 2:48 PM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Strangely, I find Stardew Valley to be stressful to play. I think it's because I am a collector and achiever by nature, so I'm unable to relax until I've got a max-efficiency ancient fruit winery set up in my greenhouse, a wine cellar for aging the wine, have all the most difficult fish caught, have finished the final dungeon level, etc. etc. The constantly rolling days and seasons add a time pressure to me that most people just blithely ignore and carry on. Like, it literally doesn't matter if Gramps deems your efforts unworthy during the first evaluation, but the first time I played I "failed" the eval and started the whole game over so I could "win."

This is why I like Minecraft as my stress relief game. I can "win" the game in 10 or so Minecraft days, beating the dragon in iron armor using a bow acquired from a quick n' dirty skeleton grinder. Then I can acquire my wings and backpacks, and the whole world becomes endless and open, with no time pressure in the form of seasons or quests or friendships to maintain or gifts to prepare for special holidays. If I want to spend several hours digging out an 18x18x64 cube for some farm or another, I can do that while listening to podcasts and not having to worry about whether I have enough food for the "winter."

Don't get me wrong. I had a ball playing Stardew Valley. But people who can just chillax while playing it absolutely mystify me.
posted by xyzzy at 2:54 PM on December 16, 2017 [12 favorites]

I had a hard time with that during my first stint playing. My solution when I came back was to RP my character as deciding she needed a better work life balance. If only it was so easy in real life!

I've found a dash of RP to be helpful in a variety of games, actually. Particularly in games with too many side quests... I try to design my character as some one who is as dispositionally opposed to them as I am.
posted by selfnoise at 3:13 PM on December 16, 2017 [6 favorites]

Yeah, I can find Stardew Valley strangely stressful at times (although it's definitely one of my favourite and most played games of the exceptional crop of games that have come out in the last couple of years - someone must have found the quality fertiliser recipe for games or something). I think that is partly a consequence generalised anxiety disorder and partly due to the way that I interact with fiction. I engage so strongly with the "truth" of fiction, that I can get anxious about letting in game characters down, in the same way I hate letting real people down*. My slightly pathological real world behaviour spills over into the game. I remember watching that Polygon video where Griffin McElroy tries to show Justin how to enjoy Stardew Valley, and it's clear that there's something that just bothers Justin about the whole thing. Given that he's another GAD person with a strong urge to please, I wonder if there's some sort of theme there.

*A somewhat related issue is my hatred of killing anything or anyone in games with nonlethal takedown options.
posted by howfar at 3:23 PM on December 16, 2017 [10 favorites]

*A somewhat related issue is my hatred of killing anything or anyone in games with nonlethal takedown options.

It's interesting how I've mellowed into my late 30s as a gamer. I find myself actively trying for pacifist runs of various games. Both in Dishonored 1 and 2, I made an effort to not kill anyone in that game because I find that this kind of violence has become a bit too much for my mental health the last few years.

Don't get me wrong, there are still a number of games I play where I have no choice but to engage in violence (Destiny 2, DOOM, Wolfenstein) but I find that I'm playing those games less and less. I find myself enjoying games that are just as I had written above, more mellow, that give me options where I'm not just mindlessly attacking other things or people.

Mental health has been a big part of this shift away from violence. My mind feels like its on fire when I play a game that has too much violence. Oddly enough, watching a tv show or a film does not have that same effect and I'm fine with it. Just a personal thing that I've noticed.
posted by Fizz at 3:49 PM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

I keep thinking of "A year in Stardew Valley: life, labour and love", an extended meditation on struggling in life vs. struggling in a life simulator. Previously.
posted by ardgedee at 4:05 PM on December 16, 2017 [8 favorites]

A core tenant of mindfulness is to accept that you cannot fail

If playing a video game is bringing you peace, that's cool, but that claim about mindfulness confuses part of the goal of meditation for the process, and is potentially a profoundly harmful misunderstanding. There is right and wrong mindfulness, and wrong mindfulness can contribute to a depressive state of mind. The Buddha said, "mindfulness is my plowshare and goad," and
Just as the royal frontier fortress has a gate-keeper — wise, experienced, intelligent — to keep out those he doesn't know and to let in those he does, for the protection of those within and to ward off those without; in the same way a disciple of the noble ones is mindful, highly meticulous, remembering & able to call to mind even things that were done & said long ago. With mindfulness as his gate-keeper, the disciple of the noble ones abandons what is unskillful, develops what is skillful, abandons what is blameworthy, develops what is blameless, and looks after himself with purity.
If you're stressed out and hating yourself at the moment, "you cannot fail" might be an expedient perspective... it might even arise from right mindfulness. But by itself, it's a dangerously incomplete view.
posted by Coventry at 4:34 PM on December 16, 2017 [5 favorites]

I'm another Mefite who gets stressed out by Stardew Valley.

For me, it's the fishing. Now, I usually like fishing games; in Suikoden, in MMOs, I always end up spending time at fishing holes. But Stardew Valley's fishing game... it just doesn't work for me. It makes me crazy.

You can kind of avoid fishing in the game, but I'm a completionist. I tried to figure out the fishing thing; made an entire fishing character, etc. But finally I just gave up on the whole game.

I never found the game relaxing. There was always this feeling of being terribly behind all the time; even if you were doing something, there was always something else equally urgent you were neglecting.

Too much like real life for me. Give me Dungeons of Dredmor any day.
posted by MrVisible at 5:03 PM on December 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

If you're stressed out and hating yourself at the moment, "you cannot fail" might be an expedient perspective... it might even arise from right mindfulness. But by itself, it's a dangerously incomplete view.

it’s a helpful perspective insofar as spending your time sitting thinking “i am meditating all wrong” over and over is an impediment to mindfulness.
posted by murphy slaw at 5:21 PM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

On the other hand, it is actually possible to meditate all wrong, and do yourself serious harm in the process, so if you're thinking that, it might be sensible to get some expert guidance.
posted by Coventry at 5:35 PM on December 16, 2017

Someone on Mastodon tooted this article to me, it felt appropriate to share it here: Understanding Autism Through Stardew Valley [Game Informer]
posted by Fizz at 5:38 PM on December 16, 2017

I tried Stardew Valley but as soon as the ... plot? was revealed (the thing about the big corporation threatening to take over the town and put the little shop out of business) I got all depressed because it was so much like real life, and I was worried I wouldn't be able to stop the big corporation, and also that none of the guys in town would like me, and I would just disappoint everyone... so I went back to Minecraft where no one else lives ...
posted by The otter lady at 6:08 PM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Everyone engages with games differently, which is part of the fun of games. For example, I just finally tried Superhot thanks to Twitch Prime, and.... I think I don't like it? Weird.

However, if it was stopping anyone: there is really no long term way to run out of time or fail in Stardew Valley. Anything you want to do will be there in a year of game time or even beyond. Engage with what you want and leave the stuff behind that doesn't engage you.
posted by selfnoise at 6:12 PM on December 16, 2017

The otter lady, thought I'd share my take on some of the concerns you raised.

That big corporation doesn't make as large an impact as I thought it would. Once you move into town there's a local JoJo Super Market that will try to sell you things at a discounted price and even offer you a job, but thankfully you have the option to just ignore that and continue to work on your own farm and sell/buy things at the local farmer's market.

Also, you can totally ignore the townspeople and do your own thing. They're pretty cordial and nice to you and will still invite you to the seasonal town events/celebrations. I've avoided the social interaction/dating/marrying part of that game for an entire year. I'm just doing my own thing and farming and mining my way to a larger house. I'm barely fishing because I'm not a huge fan of this game's particular fishing mechanic.

So just wanted to let you know that you have the option to play the game your way, but if its totally not your vibe, then no worries, Minecraft is a fun world to live inside of as well.
posted by Fizz at 6:12 PM on December 16, 2017 [6 favorites]

I agree completely with selfnoise. Some games just don't vibe with certain individuals. I get that. People keep telling me that I should try to get into PUBG, Ark, & Rust. All of these have an open world, always online, play with others, every person for themselves survival type of gameplay. And I'm not a fan of that, at all. It freaks me the fuck out. I'm so worried about being murdered when I'm not online.

In Rust you can come back to find your home base has been attacked and all of your stuff stolen. In PUBG you're just battling for survival and I'm so worried about letting down others or screwing up and having people see me screw up because I'm bad at sniping, it just causes me to have the worst anxiety.
posted by Fizz at 6:17 PM on December 16, 2017 [4 favorites]

Heh... I just now wandered over to Metafilter after playing Stardew Valley for awhile tonight as a mind-soother. It's a guaranteed happy/calming place for me, and also provides a quiet place for my forebrain and hands while the back of my brain casually considers ideas for a story I'm working on.
posted by theatro at 6:19 PM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Thank you, Fizz, for the info! I may give it another shot-- I did like the look and general cute, cozy 'feel' of Stardew, I just get all crouton-petter when the NPCs are sad and I worry about them :(
posted by The otter lady at 6:25 PM on December 16, 2017 [5 favorites]

In Rust you can come back to find your home base has been attacked and all of your stuff stolen.
Ugh, Rust was the most toxic gaming experience I've ever had. I think the best way to play Rust and Ark is with friends who have agreed to not grief. There's a difference between raiding someone's house for Ark/Rust PVP while they're home and it's defended and waiting until they log out to kill their sleeping body and wreck their base and kill all their dinosaurs or whatever.
In PUBG you're just battling for survival and I'm so worried about letting down others or screwing up and having people see me screw up because I'm bad at sniping, it just causes me to have the worst anxiety.
I had this type of anxiety until I was forced into being a bear offtank in a WoW guild because our regular offtank quit the game. Having 20+ people depending on me to hit a button at the right time to switch off with the main tank or grab adds at the correct time or move one of the Twins to the right location really stressed me out, but when I made mistakes and the general response was "ok, let's reset" I relaxed a lot more. Again, it really helps to play with cool, like-minded people. They even let me experiment with single-tanking fights so our main tank could try out his DPS build. It was fun.

I keep meaning to write something about how I play Minecraft, which is strangely violent. The vast majority of my Minecraft time is dedicated to designing automated mechanisms of mass murder of mobs and animals in order to collect their drops and experience. When I'm not doing that, I'm enslaving villagers to farm for me and give me money for the things I force them to farm. I even create artificial villages to force their guardians to spawn and give me free iron by throwing them into lava. This style of gameplay seems to be strangely emergent, because I regularly see concerned parents posting on the Minecraft subreddit asking how their kid went from making cobblestone castles in creative mode to designing machines that set maturing chickens on fire automatically.
posted by xyzzy at 6:43 PM on December 16, 2017 [4 favorites]

I started playing Stardew about a week ago and I love it so, so much. It's such a beautiful and thoughtfully-composed little world to spend time in. It feels handmade in a way that videogames rarely do. I think the music is a big part of why the game works so well – the wonderful soundtrack brings me right back to playing Secret of Mana as a kid. I love that the same person did the programming, graphics and music! It's a little jewel box of a game.
posted by oulipian at 6:51 PM on December 16, 2017 [7 favorites]

I bought this in January, ie pretty soon after the election, and in that first month I put... god I have no idea, but well over 100 hours into it. I have no idea if this was good or bad for my mental health, but it was definitely druglike. (It is also druglike in the sense that simply seeing this FPP prompted me to go play it for another couple hours.)
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:03 PM on December 16, 2017 [4 favorites]

Totally coincidentally, I bought Stardew Valley today and played for 7 hours. While streaming the first season of The Fosters on Netflix. If you also are a science professor in a diverse blue dot in a red state whose higher-ups just decided that courseloads should be increased because money matters more than pedagogy, this may be the combination of medicine that you also need.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:32 PM on December 16, 2017 [12 favorites]

One thing I really appreciate about this particular game is how it has pulled in a lot of people who aren't normally into gaming and has them now loving this type of sim. I've had conversations with so many friends who aren't super into gaming. It's easy to approach and not overwhelming or daunting the way many other video-games can be.

It is also not a game that requires an expensive setup. You can run it on pretty much every platform: Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation Vita. It's not graphics heavy and one need not have a gaming focused PC/laptop to play the game. It's very friendly in that way.
posted by Fizz at 7:46 PM on December 16, 2017 [4 favorites]

I, too, found a lot of solace earlier this year playing Stardew Valley. I should go back to my save file with the massive basement full of aging wine and cheese, still some missing items in the museum. Clint sure as heck isn't going to go get them.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 8:24 PM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

I was surprised none of the articles mentioned how you can play a thriving queer character, and how queerness is treated as totally normal within Stardew Valley. It's just really, really nice and surely contributes to why so many people find the game therapeutic.

I also appreciate that it includes authentic, serious topics. There are storylines about depression, alcoholism, gentrification, abuse, and loneliness. But these don't feel "grim dark." It feels like an acknowledgement that life is often bittersweet, but it's possible to build positive relationships and experiences regardless.

Lovely game.

P.S. I highly recommend the "Easy Fishing" mod.
posted by Emily's Fist at 10:18 PM on December 16, 2017 [11 favorites]

One of the great things about Stardew Valley is that you can make the game stressful if you want to. Before a season starts, plan out where everything is going to go. Have the supplies ready. Day 1, follow your plan to the letter so you can get everything planted before the day is over, so you'll have X number of harvests this month. Do everything on schedule, build storage. Figure out what day you can slack off on everything so you can hit the dungeon, but make sure it's not a day which will throw the rest of your season off balance. By the end, I was playing with a spreadsheet to track daily profits, and figure out further optimizations.

I'm not sure I could ever play it again because of that stress. But that's the beauty of the game. You're not punished for being a slacker farmer who just wants to romance everyone without spending much time under a hot sun. You might be poorer, and some goals with the community center might be harder to meet, but it's still going to be fun.

Since Ark was pointed out earlier, I should mention it's possible to play it solo. There's all sorts of guides and videos covering what settings to tweak to make it more enjoyable as a single player game.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 12:46 AM on December 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

I've been going through a pretty stressful period these past few months, and I definitely used Stardew Valley to help me through it. There's something incredibly peaceful about the game to me, it sets my mine at ease.
posted by destrius at 6:02 AM on December 17, 2017

So not surprised that this game is used in therapy, but also totally get those who find it stressful. The game scratches a lot of the obsessive itches that make video games pleasurable to me, but in ways that feel therapeutic, and thus justify the hundreds of hours I pour into it.
My previous game crack of choice was Don't Starve, where you can't ever "win". If Stardew is a sandbox, Don't Starve is more of a sandcastle: you forage your ass off, facing death every moment to build a perfect little home base, only to inexorably lose it all to some giant moose goose. It has different lessons to offer about ephemerality and determination in the face of futility... I'd be into some Don't Starve longreads.
But that was a game for the Obama era. In these uncertain times, I need more solid pixel grounds. That's baked into the escapist premise of Stardew: run away from your shitty corporate life to a farm where everything makes sense, your work is rewarded and people have easily met needs. But the gameplay also keeps me in "getting shit done" mode, and the one-day save format makes it easy to slide into a pomodoro reward schedule, so you can build healthy productive/anti-depressive habits around it.
posted by Freyja at 7:00 AM on December 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

Some previouslies - there are so many about gaming and depression. Googling " gaming depression" results in a slew of sad askmes; Stardew Valley is definitely one of the few games on the self-care end of the spectrum though. I found it moving, it did something for me (I can only think of two other games where I strongly felt this, and one painting; I go more for music).
In Jodorovsky & Moebius' The Technopriests a young acolyte wants to create games which free players' minds but is forced to create games which intentionally cause depression and dependence. This is basically what Xbox, CoD etc are in the real world. I keep coming up against the experience that many games increase an underlying rage whilst pacifying and being self-medicating in the moment. However as they are essentially toxic culture (a part of the mass media that forms a psychologically toxic environment) I am probably stating the obvious.
posted by yoHighness at 7:18 AM on December 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

This game seriously helped pull me out of a really bad place a few months ago. The news was overwhelming me, and whenever I picked up my phone I was scrolling through Twitter and despairing about the state of the world. I looked to games to engage my mind in something so it could just stop thinking about the world for a bit. Zelda helped, but Stardew Valley was perfect. Just plant shit, chop trees, walk around. Perfect for me at that time, and it really helped calm me down.
posted by odinsdream at 9:08 AM on December 17, 2017 [5 favorites]

Great game, I had fun with it when it came out but haven't returned to it since. Here's a timelapse I made at the time. I definitely empathise with the idea of gaming to escape reality and depression. It doesn't have to be stress-free for me to enjoy it, it just has to capture your imagination and attention enough to let you escape for a few hours.

Right now I'm enjoying Kerbal again. It can be frustrating but there's nothing quite like it.
posted by Acey at 10:22 AM on December 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

My previous game crack of choice was Don't Starve, where you can't ever "win". If Stardew is a sandbox, Don't Starve is more of a sandcastle: you forage your ass off, facing death every moment to build a perfect little home base, only to inexorably lose it all to some giant moose goose.

You should check out Oxygen Not Included, made by the same people who made Don't Starve.
“Oxygen Not Included is a space-colony simulation game where you manage your colonists and help them dig, build and maintain a subterranean asteroid base. Players will need water, warmth, food, and oxygen to keep them alive, and even more than that to keep them happy.”
It's still in Early Access but it has a Factorio/RimWorld kind of feel to it. It looks really intense and I both want to play and simultaneously am terrified by the anxiety it would create in me.
posted by Fizz at 11:13 AM on December 17, 2017

Another good Switch game is Fire and the Flood. It's a survival game but it's kind of peaceful in its own weird way, and its gorgeous.
posted by odinsdream at 11:33 AM on December 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Fire and the Flood. It's a survival game but it's kind of peaceful in its own weird way,

Absolutely agree that it's enjoyable and beautiful. That being said, it can be a bit dark. You're a young teen/woman travelling with her dog trying to survive by foraging for food, crafting survival items, etc. You can die of starvation/hypothermia, receive an infection from a cut, die from a wolf attack. It is a brutal world that you're cast in.
posted by Fizz at 11:41 AM on December 17, 2017

I keep meaning to play Subnautica for real. It's all underwater and there's lots of danger about, but it's also base building and exploration and looks pretty neat. Early Access but they are nearing release, I think late January.

Since this is all framed as "a help for depression" can we talk about whether this form of escapism is healthy? I mean sure a happy fun break is good for anyone, no problem with that. But I'm thinking of the obsessive level of play of games I've seen in some people. Particularly World of Warcraft back in the day, with guildmates putting in 8+ hours a day on different alts. I worry that games like this can be traps for depressive people. Is that a problem?
posted by Nelson at 12:06 PM on December 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

is this the one with the void chickens y/n
posted by poffin boffin at 1:24 PM on December 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

y, poffin.

I also put many many hours into Stardew in the months after the 2016 general election. It definitely helped keep me from breaking down completely. Now, however, whenever I consider playing again I think of all the things I "have to get done" in the game and I don't play it. Honestly, I'm like that with many games - I dive head-first into games that present me a routine and some stuff to organize, but as soon as the amount that needs organizing or the complexity of the routine hits a certain point, I bail almost immediately and rarely come back without taking a break of months or even years. This pattern holds across PC, console and mobile games.
posted by Gaz Errant at 1:54 PM on December 17, 2017

Since this is all framed as "a help for depression" can we talk about whether this form of escapism is healthy? I mean sure a happy fun break is good for anyone, no problem with that. But I'm thinking of the obsessive level of play of games I've seen in some people. Particularly World of Warcraft back in the day, with guildmates putting in 8+ hours a day on different alts. I worry that games like this can be traps for depressive people. Is that a problem?

Like any coping mechanism, it's possible to rely on it too much, to the point where it does become a problem. Personally, after a while, I had to uninstall it for a couple of months. My depression was a mix of situational (my job was awful) and clinical, and my various methods of coping with the stress of the job (including but certainly not limited to the game) were getting in the way of focusing on my job search. Once I changed jobs, I reinstalled it, but I also found myself much less compelled to sink dozens of hours into it at a time.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:55 PM on December 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

I still couldn't tell you if playing the game was nothing but necessary-for-my-sanity escapism from the awful combo of my job and American politics, or if something about playing the game was actively therapeutic for me.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:58 PM on December 17, 2017 [5 favorites]

is this the one with the void chickens y/n

yes and they lay void eggs that you can make into void mayonnaise
posted by murphy slaw at 9:01 AM on December 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Currently on my third playthrough. I'm doing a better job of avoiding min/max tendencies and just *playing*, but it turns out that even with the pressure off, I still want to work towards star fruit winery > ancient fruit winery. So be it! This time, the winery will be overrun with void chickens and dinosaurs.
posted by SpiffyRob at 10:44 AM on December 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

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