Stardew Valley, a 2016 indie game that places the player in the role of a farmer after inheriting a farm from his grandfather, has become one of the most popular and influential games of recent years, this influence impacting the independent space and big business. like Nintendo. Provide players with the ability to “create the farm of [their] dreams,” the game’s polished farming system and open-ended story earned the game much well-deserved love. To such an extent that from March 202220 million copies of Stardew Valley sold out across all platforms.
The success of Stardew Valley is certainly a great reminder of the popularity of farming games, even for titles where farming is perhaps just one aspect of the larger game. And with a number of farming games coming out in the next few years, including Square Enix At harvest and independent title PuffPals: Island Skiesa question comes to my mind as a result of Stardew Valleypopularity. What exactly is behind the continuous endurance of farming games?
To answer that question, I spoke with a handful of avid gamers (and even people in the farming business) to better understand what sets them apart as the main draws of farming games – a genre that allows gamers to take full control of their digital world.
A slower pace of play
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Franchises like Farming Simulator that present a very real farming experience to titles like Stardew Valley which blend farming gameplay into an RPG story, the range of the farming genre is quite wide and varied in what it can offer players.
These games offer players the opportunity to have full control over their own farm, often at a slower pace of play. This includes crop selection, harvesting, caring for animals, dealing with changing weather conditions, and often collecting various materials like plants, metals, and many more to use in crafting. Depending on the game, there may also be social and adventure elements mixed in.
kermit ballcommunity coordinator for Giants Software, shared that his Farming Simulator series offers his large player base a soothing, easy-to-lose style of play where players routinely sink “hundreds and thousands of hours of gameplay” into their Game.
“You can relax and chat with friends while playing, but you can never run out of tasks,” Ball told Digital Trends. “So many people talk about the calming nature of just working in your fields. It’s a game you can really get lost in. You start playing and working in your fields while listening to the sounds of farming equipment and nature combined and it relaxes you a bit, then hours go by without you even realizing it.
Farming games lend themselves more to the player finding their own definition of success than any other genre.
The slower pace of play stood out among my conversations as a strong draw, both to serve as initial interest in a game and as a factor that kept players coming back. For Peter (who preferred not to share his last name), a former Twitch streamer, the slower pace of farm games is a big draw for him on an individual level.
“The pacing is much slower than combat-focused games, which I think puts more emphasis on learning and exploring,” Peter told Digital Trends. “There’s more opportunity to focus on aesthetics over functionality, if that’s your thing, and less pressure to rush to become the most powerful, or the richest, or whatever the measure of “end-game success”, without preventing speed runners or players who love this gameplay from choosing this route. In fact, I think farming games lend themselves more to the player to find their own definition of success than any other kind, making them excellent for unwinding from everyday stress.
Non-violence and simpler goals
Video games in general are often described as a form of escape – from everyday life, stress, work and everything in between. This escape is different from one video game to another, easily found in the stories experienced by players in the different types of game mechanics that are most appreciated.
The escape of non-violence is a joy.
For Leigh (who preferred not to share his last name), an Indiana player, the non-violent gameplay and simple objectives found in most farming games go hand in hand for them.
“The escape from nonviolence is a joy,” Leigh told Digital Trends. “I spend all day reading the news and it’s nothing but death and terror and outright violence so it’s nice to escape to my tiny little farm that I can give look what I want or produce what I want and not have to worry about picking up bullets or something.(Not to say there isn’t a battle aspect to Stardew Valley but that’s never the main focus of the game, just something incidental.).”
Non-violent gameplay has certainly seen its fair share of the honor in recent years, with 33% of games which were shown at E3 and Summer Game Fest in 2021 without a fight. Discussions about non-violent games also constantly appear online, including entire Reddit threads dedicated to discussing and recommending such titles. Non-violent games, like many farming titles, often pair well with the simpler goals players find in farming games.
Easily achievable goals like watering crops, tending livestock, and even interacting with in-game NPC characters also keep Leigh and other players coming back to games like harvest moon, Stardew Valleyy, and even The Sims 4 expansion pack Living in a cottage.
“A friend of mine and I have a farm on Stardew Valley with over 100 hours on it and he and I are discussing that aspect [easily achievable goals] a lot while playing,” says Leigh. “You can decide, ‘Okay, today on the farm, I want to pet all the cows and I want to check my canning jars and I want to water my crops.’ And just like that, you have a to-do list that’s achievable, which, in the face of endless piles of work and chores in real life, it’s nice to be able to sit down and actually get something done.
Feasibility paired with non-violent gameplay provides a simplistic and idyllic experience in many farming games. Compared to faster-paced titles where you can be faced with a sprawling open world, numerous missions and a more focused storyline, farming games certainly have a lot to offer players looking for a slower style of play – even the chance to have control over the basic tasks they want to undertake.
In Stardew Valley, for example, you can base your daily tasks on different weather conditions. If it rains, you don’t have to worry about watering your crops that day, leaving you more time and energy to spend on other tasks like caring for your livestock, going to mining, planting or even interacting with the town residents. But if it’s a sunny day, you can take the time to water and tend to your crops before moving on to other things you want to do that day.
“These games allow players to have creative freedom over the mundane aspects of life, which during a pandemic where your life seems completely out of control, no matter what you do, it’s comforting to be able to control something. even if it’s just a pixel-farmer petting his sheep,” says Leigh.
The creative control of agriculture
There was one group I was particularly interested in talking to while digging into the farming games: those who actually work in real-world farming space. And through a conversation I had with Chip Carter, producer and host of Where does the food come fromone final key ingredient of the farming genre has become a little clearer – the creative control players have over their ideal farm, from the crops they want to grow to the ability to ensure a successful harvest.
“I think even farmers who play farming games do so because they can eliminate all the imperfections of the real world,” Carter told Digital Trends. “So we all have this mental image of Farmer Brown on a tractor, and he has peas here, and carrots on the side, and potatoes on the other side – in the real world, that literally never happens . Every once in a while we come across a real family farm where they grow a bit of everything. But the reality is that as you travel you start to see what grows best in a particular area and realize that commercially that’s all that’s grown there. There are places in the Everglades where you will come across hundreds of acres of farms growing nothing but peppers. Twenty miles away, they only grow squash.
“Farming games are about our sense of the past and the comfort we derive from it – Farmer Brown is on his farm, the crop is all planted, he’s sitting on the porch having a cold drink and taking it all in. It’s not like that, really, but it’s the myth, and we’re all comfortable believing it.
This creative control that allows players to remove real-world obstacles and imperfections that farmers face (like a change in season, drought, or an underperforming crop) presents a kind of blank canvas to approach farming. the way they would. love. Couple that with the slower game pace and non-violent mechanics that players also find so appealing and it’s easy to see why farming games have such appeal, whether the farming mechanics are very realistic or more fantasy in nature.
Every farming game I’ve played and enjoyed has started with that same familiar loop that feels like putting on a fuzzy pair of slippers on a cold winter day.
Even a simple quick search for farming simulators on Steam reveals 157 titles (as of July 27, 2022) to come, all with some sort of farming element that allows players to pursue their own goals in virtual fields. Farming, which can be seen as an imperfect art in a real environment, lends itself to a unique style of play that blends all the elements players enjoy into a creative experience. It’s almost like a kind of Zen garden, as Carter said, ripe to create the perfect farm.
The perfect farm that players can aim for and the overall creativity found in these titles is really at the heart of what players find appealing, even as they delve into titles that have differences in the farming mechanics themselves. same.
And as Peter said best, these differences always leave him and others with a sense of familiarity. “The farming aspects are definitely at the heart of the fun for me, yes. Different titles have different tricks, and some have unique elements that work a bit better than others, but just about every farming game I I played and enjoyed started with that same familiar loop that feels like putting on a fuzzy pair of slippers on a cold winter day.