Stardew Valley | The Game That (Re)Defines Me

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Audio

 

The Games That Define Us features carefully chosen music and remixes from the franchise of the game represented. Music is a key component of sharing the emotions one feels about a game, so we hope you will press the play button if you’re in a position to do so. 

introduction

We’ve been looking to the past with most of these pieces. Sure, we’ve looked at how these games connect to the present, but with the possible exception of wonderful pieces on modern games like Will’s DayZ rumination or Alyssa’s Sims 4 recollection, most of the pieces for this look to the past for insights on the present. As the sites transitions back to normal Normal Happenings (not a typo), I wanted to look at the one game in my library that I can use to look to the future. It’s a relatively recent game – one with personality, distinction, and insights on life.

It is the one, the only…


Game: Stardew Valley
System: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: February 6, 2016


1P Start

What would be the best use of my time?
It was a common refrain in the Valley, until one day something fascinating happened. I started asking myself this question in real life, and it changed everything.

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Irrepressible optimism. That’s not the kind of thing I’ve always had to the degree required to fuel my motivation for life. In fact, much of my brooding in the past reflected disenchantment and cynicism. Irrepressible optimism is a learned skill. I’m going to be quite honest, to live life in a consistently positive manner presents a huge number of challenges, especially in a world so seemingly unbalanced in favor of negativity.

What I mean is that the consequences of negative events seem to far outweigh the fleeting effects of sanguine happenings. If there is balance to be found, it is in the possibility that negative events happen far less frequently than positive ones, but it is difficult to convince a person experiencing a mountain of very costly, very adult situations of this notion.

It seems assured, then, that the world is indeed a negative place filled with suffering to some extent or another. And yet, despite appearances, I’m an irrepressible optimist. Seeking this buoyant type of life has lead to more fulfillment than I’ve ever experienced, but I require tools to maintain that optimism. I’ve tried my best to build around me a fortress of positivity — relationships, education, and media all conducive towards making a dark world a little brighter. 

There are plenty of games that resonate with me on an emotional level, from the classic adventures of puff-balling my way across Dreamland in Kirby’s Adventure to the modern cinematic characterization of Aloy in Horizon Zero Dawn. We see fingerprints like this all over this collaboration. There is not a single entry in this collection in which a person actively hated the game that defined them. That’s because sometimes a beautiful symbiosis occurs when you love a game — that title begins to integrate itself into your life as part of your identity.

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Stardew Valley is one of those engines for me. It’s no secret I absolutely adore the game, but it means so much more to me than an escapist romp through a farm town. The game has become an integral part of my experience as a human being.

Love in the Hard Times

I think one of the biggest reasons Stardew Valley is so important to me was completely out of the developer’s hands. Timing is everything, and the game landed on the Switch for me at just the right time. They say the first year of marriage is the hardest. However, traditionally this cliche evokes images of two people discovering how frustrating it is to live with each other constantly. Not so with us — Nikki and I had almost a decade of dating experience backing us up, so we were pretty well-prepared for what to expect.

No, what confronted us was far more insidious than simple situational adaptation. The Dark Cloud of mental illness cannot be defeated by swords and shields, and we both carried with us a storm of family, cultural, and religious trauma. I believe mental illness is the true final boss of life, and Stardew Valley arrived deep into our protracted conflict with the Dark Cloud.

As many others have expressed, video games provide an adequate refuge from dealing with the constant pressure of real life. Though in the past I worried that using video games as a form of escapism would lead to addiction, that never happened with me. Instead, I simply began to look forward to my short daily commutes into the Valley. Rain or shine, they awarded me an opportunity to alleviate the challenges of real life and offered a glimpse into a future free from this mess. When struggling in a mental capacity, there can be nothing healthier than a little escapism.

Every Day an Opportunity

In Stardew Valley, you’re offered a choice, even if you’re not making them on a conscious level. The halcyon days go by quickly in the Valley, simulating the perception of time as aging sets in if left uncontrolled. As in real life, there no way you can get everything you need to done in a day.

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It’s raining in the fall, so can go explore the mines without fear of losing my harvest. It’s sunny in the spring, so I should harvest some salmonberries! Snow has blanked the ground in winter, so I should try to find some artifacts for the museum.

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What would be the best use of my time?

It was a common refrain in the Valley, until one day something fascinating happened. I started asking myself this question in real life, and it changed everything. You’ve probably seen this blog transcend from periodic posts to routine (hopefully high-quality) content. It happened in other aspects of my life too, but I credit my time in Stardew Valley for this paradigm shift. I am hoping it can help me conquer my fitness goals heading into 2019.

The Future is Beautiful

While it may seem cursory due to existing as a video game, the choices you make in the Valley uniquely impact the future. Every decision made has a butterfly effect, impacting life in unforeseen ways.

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I used to be scared of the future, envisioning scenarios in which catastrophe could spirit us away from the life we’ve dreamed. I used to be terrified of death, but even that doesn’t cause incapacitating dread as it used to. I am here to make the most of my time — to live and love, and to try impact the present and the future for the better. I am, after all, an irrepressible optimist, and the future is full of beautiful choices. Let’s make it all it was meant to be.

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This is, umm, not a baby announcement. It’s just a good example of future choices.

If Sonic the Hedgehog 2 defined my childhood, Stardew Valley defines my adulthood. Sonic 2 is the game that defines me. Stardew Valley is the game that redefines me.

Future Collaborations

Many of you have been asking about future collaborations on Normal Happenings.

Going forward, I plan to facilitate four collaborations per year. Big, month-long, epic ones like this are hard (but very enjoyable) work, so I only plan to do two per year. One will be in the summer, the other in the winter. I already have an idea of what the winter collab next year will look like, but as of now summer is completely up in the air.

In the in-between, spring and fall, I will be putting on mini-collaborations, similarly formatted to Hyrule: See the Sights! Hear the Sounds! If you want an idea of what to expect, that’s currently your go-to publication. I call the collaborations “mini,” but they’ll consist of ten to twenty pieces, weaved together into a one-post grand experience.

I intend to revel the identity Spring 2019 collaboration on New Years Day — January 1, 2019. Past contributors will get first dibs, but I definitely intend to reserve at least four or five slots specifically for newcomers.

What Happens Next?

Next, I’m taking a break… just for about a week or so. I just want to unplug and normalize after posting for 35 days straight. Doing so will refuel my creativity in the long run. I’ve got a drafts folder full of great ideas for posts, as I haven’t been able to craft any “normal” pieces for quite some time.

I’ll still be on Twitter, albeit probably a bit less than I have been for the past two months. I’ve got a collection of Daily Inklings scheduled to post as well, so this place will still be plenty active. I intend to be back in action on Monday December 17 with an important update post on Dysontopia and the Normal Happenings Patreon, so stay tuned for that.

And on that hopeful note, we’ve reached the conclusion of the most epic thing I’ve ever had the pleasure of facilitating. I want to thank all of you by name:

Thank you Megan, Ian, GG, Kim, Jan, KT, Moses, Victor, Shauna, Heather, Alyssa, Luke, Justin, Chris, Pix1001, Will, Murr, The Gaming Diaries, Amanda, Alex, Ruubin, Khinjarsi, Matt, Kathy, Mr. Backlog, Michael, Ellen, Ryan, Zerathulu, Imtiaz, Teri Mae, Skylar-Mei, and my beautiful wife Nikki for making this all possible! You all have done more than I ever dreamed.

And of course, thank you, dear reader, for taking the time to read our thoughts. Always remember that you are awesome!

And The Credits Roll…


WordPress Reader viewers, please consider enjoying this post again on the site. While we designed with you in mind, you miss some of the nuances of the piece by not enjoying it in its original form.

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This collaboration took an overwhelming amount of time and dedication from 34 exceptionally creative, incredible makers! Help us with the resources to make more, even better, collaborations in the future! We also have aspirations of developing a podcast called Normal Talks about optimistically appreciating everyday life! Please consider becoming a patron of Normal Happenings and help us try to make the world a better, more positive place!
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Adventure Map | The Games That Define Us

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introduction

Video games exist as fragments on the timeline of our lives, and each one of us have chosen the adventure we feel most defines us.

Welcome to The Games That Define Us, the second Normal Happenings collaboration! Starting on November 1, you will be embarking on a 34-day long journey through video games. Each piece is its own unique audiovisual experience, complete with artwork, designs, music, and (most importantly) amazing works of prose by brilliant bloggers around the world. These contributions go beyond mere game conversation, though each of these artists have proven time and again their ability to think critically about game mechanics and presentation. One need only view their blogs to see they are well-versed in the art of critique.

But that’s not what The Games That Define Us is all about.

This adventure will take you through nostalgia, joy, ambition, self-discovery, regret, anxiety, frustration, mourning, and every human experience in between. Video games exist as fragments on the timeline of our lives, and each one of us have chosen the adventure we feel most defines us.

What does it mean for a video game to define you? It can be hard to tell at first, but here is a good starting point: close your eyes and just think “video games.” What games pop into your head? Maybe there is only one – if so you may have already discovered the one that defines you. If there are several, ask yourself which one is the most meaningful to you. We think that is where you should look, and we would love to know what game defines you in the comments. Perhaps it’s even one of ours, and if so, you’re in for a treat.

This adventure map will serve as a guide through each day’s pieces – a table of contents, if you will. There will be a mini-version affixed to each post, but you can treat this as a table of contents or a launch point. We recommend reading each post in order, as they are arranged by game release date. However, feel free to dive right in to your favorite games. With these incredible bloggers, you simply cannot go wrong no matter where you start. And with that, let us begin The Games That Define Us!   

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

adventure map

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This collaboration took an overwhelming amount of time and dedication from 34 exceptionally creative bloggers. Help us with the resources to make even greater collaborations in the future. We also have aspirations of developing a podcast called Normal Talks about finding optimism in everyday life. Please consider becoming a patron of Normal Happenings and help us try to make the world a better, more positive place.
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The McAl(l)ister’s Effect: Basic Memory and the Simple Things

There is a glitch in the simulation.

Nikki and I have a “fast casual” restaurant that is easily our favorite. This type of eatery isn’t popular in some areas of the world, but they are basically a step above fast food, rather than a casual dining or “sit-down” restaurant. Instead you order your food from the counter, sit at a table, and they bring your food when it’s ready. A club and sweet tea for me, a four-cheese griller and veggie chili for Nikki.

That restaurant is called McAlister’s, a popular chain across the Eastern and Midwestern United States. The food is delicious and the service is pretty good. The name, however, is a mystery wrapped in an enigma. You see, Nikki and I have eaten McAlister’s for practically a decade, but up until three months ago McAlister’s wasn’t spelled that way. It had an extra “L” and was spelled McAllister’s. Don’t you think I know how my favorite restaurant is spelled?

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No, Google, I meant McAllister’s.

And yet recently, hungry and walking through the shops in a promenade of a suburb of St. Louis, we see a sign written in a consistent typeface with the rest of the signs in the mall. McAlister’s. Continue reading “The McAl(l)ister’s Effect: Basic Memory and the Simple Things”