Stardew Valley Made Me Question Why We Love The Mundane In Games But Hate It In Real Life

I’m sure many of you have had this experience before with Stardew Valley and similar games. After a long day of work and other household obligations, I went to sit down for my nightly routine of relaxing with Stardew Valley. All I wanted to do after spending my entire day on responsibilities was get into bed with my Nintendo Switch and water my crops, drop off some gifts for my neighbors, cut down some pesky weeds, and go mine for more resources.

But the thought occurred to me as I was pushing the same buttons and repeating this exact same routine that I did every night—why was I enjoying this? It is, quite literally, a second list of mundane tasks that I do after going through an entire day of those in real life and hating it, for the most part. When I have to go pull weeds from our garden out back in real life it’s a dreaded chore, but suddenly when it’s in Stardew Valley, it’s a fun way to relax? I found myself perplexed at the thought, so I looked into what makes the mundane in games so much more appealing.

Games Provide More Control And Customizability Over Projects

If we look at aspects of Stardew Valley that coincide with real life, such as gardening and house decorating, there are definitely similarities. If you so chose, you could plant whatever you wanted in your yard or put the work into redecorating your house or apartment… or so I thought at first. But for starters, not everyone has this kind of opportunity. While I might’ve gotten lucky enough to own a house, others may not have landed in the same circumstances. Money is a huge detriment to customizing your property in real life. Even if you have managed to obtain your own property, the cost of customizing it is often monumental. And sure, you still have to raise money in Stardew Valley in order to buy crops and upgrades, but it is dramatically easier in comparison.

The limitations to what you can do in Stardew Valley compared to what you can do in real life are enough on their own to make customization in Stardew Valley feel like an exceptional experience. We’re able to enjoy more control than we can in our day-to-day lives, and that makes the game more appealing.

Physical Labor Is Not A Factor In Games

This might not play a part for those that are physically active, but I can safely say that my biggest barrier for finding the motivation to take care of my garden in real life comes from the physical work. Getting dirty, being too hot outside, aching neck and back from bending over the plants—these are all factors that do not factor into my fictional garden in Stardew Valley. This goes for anything else too from going to the store for supplies to building and crafting items. This is all way more relaxing to accomplish from the comfort of your own couch.

Games Provide Immediate Results For Your Labor

While it’s true that you still have to wait a certain number of days or weeks for your crops to grow in Stardew Valley, it doesn’t compare to the time you have to wait in real life. When I’ve finished planting a whole bunch of seeds in Stardew Valley, I like to breeze through the next week to start seeing the results of my labor. I’ll be honest—it’s a little discouraging to spend the day gardening and to walk outside the next day and have nothing look any different.

Generally speaking, people find more fulfillment and enjoyment in activities in which they are awarded with immediate (or at least quicker) gratification. It’s almost as if Stardew Valley takes our daily tasks and says, “it’s okay, in this environment, you’ll be rewarded for your hard work.”

You Could Always Choose Not To Do It

Perhaps the most important factor in what makes mundane tasks in games like Stardew Valley less dismal than those in real life is the fact that we can choose not to do them at any given time. While real life’s commitments are inescapable, we only have to become farmers, partners, and home decorators in Stardew Valley when the mood strikes us. This goes along with our desire for control. The simple feeling of being able to choose completely shifts how we think of the activities, even despite their similarities.

The Atmosphere Was Built To Be Calming

In an attempt to make mundane activities at home more relaxing, I will link my phone with the Bluetooth speakers and try to put my mind at ease through music. But while this can be helpful to some degree, we all know that life includes constant interruptions. From phone calls to children that need help, there is often something pulling our attention in numerous directions. But when you can sit down and become immersed in a game like Stardew Valley, there’s just you, the calming music, and only the neighbors that you choose to talk to. You’re able to go about your day exactly as you desire with nothing but cute animation and comforting melodies.

Though Modeled Off Of Real Life Tasks, The Tasks In Stardew Valley Are Nothing Like Them

While my initial thought was that it’s strange how doing the same task in real life versus in a game can result in polar opposite experiences, I’ve realized that games like Stardew Valley are masterfully constructed to take ordinary tasks and make them feel extraordinary. Sure, I might still be planting crops, but I got to choose whichever ones I wanted, how many, and where I wanted to plant them. Furthermore, I did not have to physically exert myself to do so, nor did I have to actually wait for weeks to months for them to grow. With the soothing music and the option to grow my crops only when I wanted to, the simple chore of “gardening” becomes a wholesome, fun experience. This is how we get drawn into games that, on the surface, are simply offering us ways to do what we already do (or could be doing) in real life.

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