Monthly Archives: June 2017
At one point, I was incredibly behind in the world of video games. I had spent time away due to college life and budgetary reasons. But then, when my financial situation stabilized, I upgraded my laptop situation and with the help of many Steam Sales, I began to close the gap of time lost.
I finally played Doom 3 and Fallout 3 and the Arkham series and other big budget games I had missed out on during their releases. The older games I wanted to play were cheaper and that meant they were the games I was tackling first. No surprise.
It was a surprise, however, that I started trying out indie games. I had moved away from video games around 2006 and missed out on the rise of this world. If Braid was the unofficial beginning of this bright new era, then I was wearing sunglasses. I didn’t read articles about these games, I didn’t hear people talk about them. I was oblivious.
But Overclocked Remix changed that with one ReMix. They posted a track by contributor Dale North for the game To the Moon. It was a mix for a game that I had never heard about. The write-up for the song had a positive review for the game itself, especially the soundtrack. Combined with SNES-style graphics and a relatively cheap price, I was intrigued.
As a game, To the Moon was fine, more of an interactive movie than a game. But the story tore my heart in half, so it left an impression. And the music was as melancholy as the narrative, over-emotional and infectious. Too the Moon helped me realize that there was another world of games that I had missed. It wasn’t just the big titles like Bioshock or X-COM, but this new crop of indie projects.
Binding of Issac must have been the next game I tried. The Zelda-esque dungeon-crawling was something I immediately understood but the presentation was unlike anything I had played before. And I found the game’s soundtrack to be absolutely fascinating. It was dark, exciting, creepy and atmospheric. It felt like a carnival or haunted house, it has a sense of humor in it’s despair. It was also the first game I watched others stream, which means it opened a whole other world for me.
I found Faster Than Light soon after and fell head over heel. It’s a great game that feels like an action movie version on Oregon Trail, but, you know, in space. It’s difficult but incredibly satisfying. Even when you lose, you don’t feel like giving up. It’s endlessly entertaining and imaginative. I love it. And the soundtrack is killer.
I bought the soundtrack, actually. It’s on Bandcamp and I find it a great listen apart from the game. The battle music is thrilling but the tunes that play when you’re simply exploring are wonderful. They feel timeless, like the soundtrack has always been around. It creates the feeling of traveling through endless space and threatening nebulas perfectly.
Bastion also has a great soundtrack, which is good because the gameplay is, as best, fine. Actually, the whole presentation of the game is beautiful, with gorgeous graphics and a process of growing the world as you grow. But, still, it’s the music that I remember the most. It has a rustic soundtrack, filled with folksy guitar and lyrics that reminded me of the show Firefly. I can’t think of another game with music like Bastion.
Crypt of the Necrodancer is all about the music and it works because the tunes are great. You want to move on the beat of the current song, lest you die. It starts to become second nature because all the tracks are funky enough that you start nodding your head as you play. It feels like it could have existed back on the SNES, but I don’t think those games had the technology for the soundtrack. It music is a bit more intricate than what I remember from the early 90s. I might be wrong, because the soundtrack fits with the pixel art of the game so well.
I say all of this because it’s something I think modern video games have lost. I loved Bioshock but I couldn’t tell you if it had music or not. Nor can I hum anything from League of Legends, Arkham City or the new Fallout series. As games have become more cinematic, they’ve gone the route of having large, orchestral soundtracks that lack the memorable tunes of titles of old.
But indie games are smaller. They can’t afford orchestras. They get individuals who make smaller, more intimate music for the games. Because of the limitations, personality is more important than scope. They recall a time when video game music was memorable, when you would play certain levels just to hear the music. And now with Spotify and other streaming options, we can listen to that music whenever we’d like. The sound is quirkier, or maybe it wants to be more emotional, or has it more character. It’s not afraid to show it’s sensitive side or be silly. These days, it feels like, bigger games are less likely to experiment with their soundtracks. Or perhaps, because they’re longer, they’re afraid to play the same music over and over. A game like The Binding of Issac can repeat it’s creepy tunes on a more regular basis because you’re only on those levels for minutes at a time.
As someone whose iPod (yes, a classic, with the clickwheel and everything) is filled with video game remixes, I have a special place in my heart for the memorable side of video games. Music is one of the most important factors of those memories. Maybe the PS2/XBox/Gamecube era was the last time musical themes were an important factor for developers. Halo had a great soundtrack with an iconic theme, as did The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (so much so that it’s carried on through the rest of the series). But these days, it’s the indie games that are carrying on the tradition of catchy, interesting video game music. It’s their secret weapon.
Imagine Dragons deliver their new album to us and I’m disappointed by the results. Titled Evolve, it feels like one step forward, two steps back for the band. While there are songs I enjoy from the album, especially the singles that were released leading up to Evolve, the general vibe is underwhelming.
I’m under no illusions that the previous Imagine Dragons albums were conceptual masterpieces. But they felt stronger as a whole, even if they could be a bit bloated. Here, there’s too few songs that stand out and not enough to hold the rest of the album up.
Maybe it’s the 80s vibe that’s throughout the album (and cover), that never seems to do much but season the songs with synth. Maybe it’s an overuse of effects, warping Dan Reynolds’ vocals for little benefits. The self-doubt of the previous albums that created “Shots” and “Polaroid” is gone, replaced with a much healthier outlook on life and self. And I always find that harder to relate to.
“I Don’t Know Why” starts off the album, without the oomph of “Radioactive” or self-destructiveness of “Shots”. It’s a fine song, one that might have been better suited as a middle track but it fails as the curtain riser. I suppose it does introduce the eighties synths we’ll be hearing throughout, but it doesn’t really have a hook of its own.
“Whatever It Takes” would have worked much better as an opener. Reynolds feels more at home and at speed with this song. Lyrics like “Whip, whip, run me like a racehorse” are catchy and the chorus is the kind you want to sing loud to inspire others around you, even if the protest. The bridge is smooth, slowing Reynolds’ rapping down to more of a conversation. It’s a strong track and a standout.
I’m sure I don’t need to talk about “Believer” that much. The song has been playing for months, the Dolph Lundgren-starring music video racking up the views. This one feels like Imagine Dragons 101. Put this on right after “Radioactive” and they would fit perfectly. Its the most bombastic song on the album, for sure. While it’s not a new favorite for me, it feels right at home with the band.
“Walking the Wire” is a return to the 80s. The chorus is catchy and and reminds me of a song Michael Jackson never wrote. The echo and layers have come straight out of 1987. Unfortunately, the rest of the song is forgettable, leaving little impression. “Rise Up” fairs a little better, even if it feels like the non-identical twin of “Walking the Wire”.
Then there’s the Huey Lewis and the News inspired, “I’ll Make It Up To You”. From the opening notes, to the chord choices and lyrics of the chorus, this reminds me of “If This Is It”.. Reynolds even sounds like he’s doing an impression of Lewis. I’d be surprised if Imagine Dragons didn’t do this on purpose, because the imitation is spot on. Maybe that’s why I like the song, cheese and all.
And maybe that’s why I don’t love “Yesterday”. If the previous song is a spot on impression of the News, than this track is a bad take on Queen, from the layered shouts to the guitar solo, to the hopefully-not-intended Freddie Mercury inflections. And while I tend not to mind Imagine Dragons love for effects stacking on one another, there’s too much going on in this song. Others might disagree, but this is a track that’s most likely to be skipped in the future.
“Mouth OF The River” has a pretty unattractive guitar during the verses, but the chorus is fine. A bit U2, but fine. Actually, there’s U2 sprinkled all around this album, mainly in the chords progressions inside most choruses. Take from that what you will.
If I’ve seemed harsh, let me admit, “Thunder” has been playing non-stop on my work computer. There’s nothing complicated about this song, the lyrics are almost criminally simple. But the story of the song is sly and snarky and when that chorus comes in, it’s got me hooked. The drum’s “boom boom boom” thunder, the repetition of the one word finding a surprising rhythm, that high pitch voice, it all works. It’s short and it hasn’t left the loop inside my brain. And the music video is weird as heck.
“Start Over” is too much cheese, even for me. The chorus, again sounding like a reject from Genesis or Belinda Carlisle, isn’t anything special. But the rest feels like a chore. And, fair warning, “Dancing In The Dark, is not a cover of the Bruce Springsteen song. It’s also a weak ending for the album. Reynolds’ voice is auto tuned the whole track and nothing about feels inspired. It’s too much, especially over a fairly relaxed beat.
Over the past year, I’ve seen a lot of critics complain about Imagine Dragons, complaining about pointless layering and meaningless sounds. I’ve never understood that, as I really enjoy the band and their previous albums. And I still don’t agree with them. Even though I don’t love Evolve, the band has a unique sounds and can be a lot of fun. I find a lot of their songs reflective, exciting and just plain catchy. Evolve has less of that, but it’s not a total loss. As someone still using cds in his car, I doubt I’ll be picking this one over Smoke + Mirrors, but I would want some of Evolve on a playlist. The album seems like it came easy to the band, but it doesn’t make for compelling music.
And with this post, I am now caught up with my podcast. So, be sure to check back every Friday for the newest episode! Or, you know, subscribe and track it yourself. Don’t become one of those “vanishing adults” politicians are going on about.
We talk Sexy New Books, because what’s sexier than a new book? Nothing. Unless that book comes with more books. Like an ebook bundle. I got the entire Wheel of Time series in one digital packet. That’s sexy.
I always feel bad when we’re not won over by these new books we talk about, but I think there’s an audience for surfers turned skateboarders. If you like these titles that we don’t care for, let us know. My Future Ex-Girlfriend sounded fun, but who cares about romance between 8th graders? I do think I should have given The Wanderers a fair shake, as it strikes me as a book that gets better as it moves along. That’s the curse of a sixty minute podcast, though!
And Nic is reading Flamingo Island, so some parties won out.
See you next week, podcats!
On the 91st episode of The All the Books Show, we talked about podcasts. Nic and I each mentioned three podcasts for our listeners. The thing is, I listen to more than three podcasts! And a lot of them are a bit too geeky for me to talk about on the show.
So, I’m going to talk about my favorite podcasts that I listen to and would suggest to people with similar tastes. Or different tastes! Some people like branching out!
Let the free advertising begin.
The Weekly Planet
An Australian podcast hosted by Mr. Sunday Movies and Nick Mason (not that one), The Weekly Planet talks comics books, movies, tv and sometimes, rarely, video games. It’s a geek news cast, keeping listeners up-to-date with the latest rumors, trailers and reviews. Each week, the cover the latest news, review a movie or tackle a topic, talk about what they’re reading/watching and answer letters.
I used to get all my comic book news from sites like Comic Book Resources, but since I started listening to The Weekly Planet, I now get my news from this podcast exclusively. It’s funny, they tend to have great ideas and it doesn’t have the cold, corporate excitement of a press release like most websites. I don’t always agree with them, sometimes I feel like I know more about a subject then them, but it’s always amusing. Nic Mason is a quick wit and can crack me up without a moment’s notice. Mr. Sunday is a good spirit, though he gets much more aggressive than Mason. But he’s a great host with a pretty fun YouTube channel of his own.
It’s a great show for those who’d like to stay up to date with comic book movies, geek TV and pop culture in general.
Next is another Australian podcast and this one has risen to the show I look forward to the most. The hosts, Tommy Dassalo, Ben Vernel and Adam Knox, are all funny comedians on their own, but together, the show is a great time.
Filthy Causals is a video game cast that covers the current gaming news and releases. They’ll speculate on rumors, review the games they’re playing and answer listener mail. Sometimes discussions go long and philosophical, such as the future of gaming or whether or not The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is, objectively, the best game ever made.
They’ll also dedicate whole episodes to certain topics, such as the time they covered TIME Magazine’s 50 Best Video Games of All Time list or, just recently, E3. They also will talk about whole series, such as the Grand Theft Auto or Mario games. Their humor is crude more often than not, but it’s hilarious and despite some of the harsher jokes, the show does create a warm environment to talk about video games. Never claiming to be experts or the most skilled and focusing on comedy over dry information sharing, it’s easy to recommend.
Do Go On
The last Australian podcast I’m going to list is also harder to describe. Each episode, one of the three hosts reports on a topic and the other two do their best to make the facts fun. Many of the topics are chosen by the listeners, with report topics ranging from Charlie Chaplin, Jack the Ripper, Shackleton’s Endurance or the Wives of King Henry VIII.
It’s a fun show. Dave Warneke, Jess Perkins and Matt Stewart crack each other up constantly and I’ve had to rewind to hear jokes a second time. It’s a show that I can bulldoze through, going through multiple episodes in a row. The topics are rarely boring on their own and the humor adds to it all. It’s a weirdly educational show and I’ve learned quite a bit while listening. Sometimes, the humor gets in the way of the fascinating history but it’s hard to fault it when it’s so entertaining.
The Great Albums
The Great Albums is a show that looks to cover the best albums in music history. The show’s goal is to talk about albums as a whole, as not just a vessel for singles but a work of art from first song to last. The hosts try to have the discussions about the work in the same way fans would, as two friends talking about their favorite music.
Bill Lambusta and Brian Erickson host the show and almost always have guest to talk about that week’s album. Topics range from the obvious Dark Side of the Moon and Who’s Next to the obscure, like New Miserable Experience. These days, the albums discussed depend on the guest’s favorites and Bill and Brian’s own taste tends to run a bit different than mine. While I don’t love all their choices, the conversations are always interesting. They have great thoughts about music and what makes it last.
I appreciate the focus on albums over singles, as I’ve learned to appreciate them myself over the last few years. I ended up buying a car with no aux port so I relearned how to listen to albums from beginning to end. It really is a different experience than listening to just your favorites on shuffle. And The Great Albums is a guide in finding the best music.
I wrote about OverClocked Remix back on Hubpages once or twice. To quickly talk about it, it’s a fantastic site that collects remixes of video game music. With thousands of songs and albums, it’s treasure trove of your favorite game’s soundtracks presented in new and interesting ways.
The OverClocked PodCast shines a spotlight on the website and video game music each episode. Brothers Stephen and Bryan Kelly will introduce music to each other, see what’s new over at OCR, interview a host about a particular track or project and than host a listener created playlist. The interviews are great practice in talking about what we love from game music and to see what elements stick with certain people. The playlists feel like a radio station got smart and started playing the best unaired music they could find.
I’ve been going to OverClocked Remix for seventeen years, filling my iTunes with it’s music. While I’ve tried to introduce the site to friends and family, it’s never stuck with them and I’ve been left to appreciate the music alone. But this podcast shares my love for the site and video game music in general. The Kelly Brothers are fun, nerdy hosts and keep the episodes cheery. If you’ve never been to the site or don’t listen to game music yourself, this cast is still a great music show and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for great tunes.
Is this somehow the nerdiest podcast I’m talking about? This is a history podcast hosted by Mike Duncan, who is not a comedian, that covers revolutions throughout history. Split into seasons by the revolution being covered, each episode focuses on elements and characters of history that make up the wars.
Duncan is frighteningly knowledgeable about each revolution and wise to keep each episode thirty minutes long. By keeping them short, the show feels digestible and less intimidating. Sure, some of these revolutions are more interesting than others, but I always feel smarter finishing an episode.
While Duncan can be a bit dry, he does have a sense of humor and brings up the insanity and bad choices that led to many of these uprisings. He’ll follow rabbit trails to see how small decisions lead to big consequences, he’ll make fun of historical figures and stop to make sure we’re understanding what’s happening. He’s not the world’s most charismatic entertainer, but he’s a fun professor if you’re an attentive student.
The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith
One of the oldest podcast I still listen to as I used to follow Goldsmith’s other show Creative Screenwriting Magazine. The Q&A follows the same format; Jeff Goldsmith interviews screenwriters, directors and actors about the creative process of film making.
Each interview, Goldsmith has a formula of of questions for the guest. We learn how they got started, how they’re process works, if they outline or not, how they deal with writer’s block, etc. He then focuses on the movie at hand and asks about decisions, challenging scenes to write, elements that came easy and the creator’s next project(s).
This show has made me a more critical movie watcher, as I’ve learned terms and troupes of film making. Depending on the movie being discussed, some of the the interviews can be fascinating and seem too short. The episode with George Miller discussing Mad Max: Fury Road is criminally brief, the interviews with the writers of Marvel films are never long enough and I remember wanting the Nightcrawler show to not end. For writers, this is an invaluable cast. For film buffs, its more insight to share at parties. Even if you’re not a writer, this podcast can be a wonderful look into the creation of your favorite films. Highly recommended to everyone.
Shut Up and Sit Down
An extension of the popular board game website of the same name. The episodes are hosted by a steady crew of British gamers, tackling board game news and reviews, while also reading listener mail (sometimes even my own!). In the growing world of table top games, this pod is a quick way to stay up-to-date with new releases and trends in the hobby.
It’s mainly hosted by Quentin Smith and Paul Dean, with a regular rotation of other site contributors. They’re all enthusiastic about the hobby and it’s growth and many of them are very well traveled in the world of table top games. Even if their opinions are different from mine, they always know what they’re talking about and talk about games with a desire for others to play as well.
I owe Shut Up and Sit Down a lot, because they helped and guided me as I got into modern board games over the years. They were the first place I learned about 7 Wonders, Letters from Whitechapel and Rex. If it wasn’t for this show, I wouldn’t have wanted the classic Survive: Escape from Atlantis or tried the hilarious Spyfall. It’s been a great resource and it’s fun as well.
The Adventure Zone
A very new addition to my listening schedule, The Adventure Zone is one of the funniest podcasts I’ve ever listened to. Justin, Travis and Griffin McElroy are three brothers who bring their dad, Clint, along for a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, with few of them ever having played before.
Griffin runs the game, starting from the 5th Edition premade adventure and then creating his own world and story. He’s a funny guy alone, but his brothers carry a lot of the weight. Sure, some of it is from their own jokes, but their role playing can be so bizarre and hilarious that listening to the show while driving can dangerous. I ended up laughing myself into tears, thankfully in standstill traffic, during their early adventures.
It’s the only narrative podcast I listen to and it’s a a niche one as well. Where I might recommend most of the other shows to anyone, your mileage may very. My wife has very little D&D experience, but she still found the show entertaining and ended up laughing right alongside me, so I would suggest giving the first episode a try, despite reservations.
There’s a few other shows I at least want to mention, if not get into deeply.
Fatman on Batman by Kevin Smith used to be a great exploration into the world of Batman and comic book history. He would have writers and artists of comics and tv come and be interviewed about the Dark Knight and it was an amazing look being the creation of some of the best Batman stories. Unfortunately, the show has lost focus and is now just another new show for movies. If you’re interested, I highly recommend going back through the older episodes, especially the interview with Dennis O’Neil.
Writing Excuses was the first podcast I ever heard and I loved it for a long time. The show changed format and focus a bit, and I personally lost interest as the years went on. Aside from that, it’ an amazing tool for inspiring writers with hosts who have been there and found success. Endless tips, suggestions and great ideas for writers (and readers), I don’t think I would have written a novel or taken a writing minor without this podcast.
Cane and Rinse is a new show I’ve found but I’m hooked. Every episode is an in-depth discussion about one particular video game. I’m not far enough a long to say too much more, but I find it fascinating and the hosts really do a good job talking about the game objectively with a dry, English wit. It probably won’t appeal to people who haven’t played the games but I recommend it to all interested parties.
Years ago, I wrote a post about Christian podcasts I suggested. It’s dated now and it’s not for everyone but you can find it here.
Any suggestions of your own? Podcasts you think I should listen to? Hate my choices? Let me know! And of course, be sure to check out my sweet podcast! It’s a weekly treat for readers and non-readers alike!
I haven’t reread a book in a long time.
Back when I was a kid, I would reread my favorites all the time. When it comes to the Animorphs, I gave each book multiple reads, picking different ones throughout the series or just reading the whole sage from the first book all over again.
After high school, when I got back to reading after a long break, I reread some of my favorites. Animal Farm, Fahrenheit 451, White Fang and Call of the Wild, to name a few. But as college rolled along, followed by adult life and a consistent job, I started having less time for everything, including reading.
Not only that, but my eyes began to open and I started seeing all the books I hadn’t read. The Hugo Awards, The Nebula Awards, long running series I had never heard of, new favorite authors who publish work every year, the sometimes informative New York Times Bestsellers list. All of these books taking up space in my schedule.
One of the biggest developments is my current job. Working as the Head of Youth Services, I have to try and read young adult books on a regular basis. Plus, the occasional book club for kids or adults. Even after being done with school, required reading is still a thing in my life.
So where does that leave my favorites? Gone are the days of being bored and picking up Jurassic Park for the tenth time. White Fang sits on my shelf as a memorial. It’s both sad and encouraging that I don’t have time to reread.
One one hand, I miss my favorites. They take me to their specific worlds and characters that I fell in love with in the first place. They also connect me to real time and places, reminding me of the first time I read each book. They’re time capsules equal to a great album, whose songs are forever etched in my mind with events.
But it’s also feels great to know that I’m reading so much new fiction that I don’t have time for what I’ve already read. I’m more well-read than I was when I was younger because I branched out. I let Jurassic Park lead me to Michael Crichton’s other books. And, I’ve found new favorites. Books like Salem’s Lot and A Canticle for Leibowitz are now right alongside I Am Legend.
But I still want to reread them again. I’d hate to think I’ve read World War Z for the last time. But how to I fit them all in to my life again? I reread The Outsiders for an 8th grade book club I ran, but that can only take me so far. Sometimes, I think I should just dedicate a month for my favorites. Reread April or November, or something like that.
Would that cause me to miss out on the new and possibly great books released those months? Is it worth it? Should I hope to read a great old age and reread then? Tomorrow is promised to no one so should I just start today until I have to read something new? It’s a dilemma and one that I’ve been thinking about for a while now. I don’t know how other people do it. With limited time in the day, with so much other things vying for my attention, it seems like a fool’s dream.
If someone was forcing me to reread my favorites right now, I’d probably pick Jurassic Park, World War Z, Dune and the White Fang/Call of the Wild combo. So, you know, please force me to do so. You’d be doing me a favor.
Look, I tried to read it phonetically. I see my mistake now. I’m sorry.
Lots of book news, some review and then we dive back into the Guardian’s list for the 100 Best Non-Fiction Books.
We talk Double Helix, North, Awakenings, The Female Eunuch and Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom, all of which sound interesting. Some of which sound like a song. Awakenings sounds like a sci-fi book but it’s real!
We also talk more about The Woman in Cabin 10. Nic just started reading it and I have to for a book club, so the adventure begins…AGAIN!
See you next week, podcats!
One more week and we’re right on schedule!
This episode we talk about the history of Wonder Woman, her comics and media representations. It’s a geeky episode, but Wonder Woman is cool so it’s all good!
I really did end up loving the Brian Azzarello run of Wonder Woman comics. It started off rocky and the weirdness of all it put me off. I think the problem was, when it was released, it was so different than the other stories being published in the New 52 and I was looking for anything to make sense during that terrible time. But the second volume really won me over and now I think it’s one of the best series they’ve done and my favorite run of the character. You just have to read it like a Vertigo title, or an Elseworld story.
Did we leave your favorite Wonder Woman story out? Favorite episode of the old Justice League cartoon? Let me know!
See you next week, podcats!
I’ve been playing a lot of Stardew Valley.
Like most things, I got to Stardew Valley late. The game has been out for more than a year and despite Steam Sales and fantastic word of mouth, I only recently purchased a copy for myself. You see, my wife got a new computer and since she likes Animal Crossing, I decided she might like another farming/village simulator.
She’s played it for a little bit and moved on. I’ve played it for weeks.
When I was younger, the PlayStation 2 got a port of the Sims and I got addicted for a week. That fire eventually died and I moved on to more complicated simulation games like Civilization IV and such. I figured since I missed the Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing craze, I was pretty much safe from the farming/life simulator genre. I was wrong.
The game opens with you receiving your own run -down farm from your grandfather. This gift frees you from the 9 to 5 world of cubicles and city life. Let me tell you, I’m at the point of my life where I don’t know what I want to do and where I want to live. I’ve got my 9 to 5 job and regularly scheduled life and I’ve found the whole experience unsatisfying. Not bad, mind you, and it’s extremely helpful in allowing me to do some things I want and have dogs and a roof over my head and etc. But, I found the opening of the game to be highly effecting.
In a way, it’s a meta opening. Your character is given a change to get away from the world and fix up his farm and start a new life. The player, in turn, is given a virtual farm that helps them escape from the busy day to day of life. More than most games, I’ve found Stardew Valley to be one of the most relaxing games I’ve played.
Which, is ironic because you stay b-u-s-y in the game. Days move by quickly, with hours gone in minutes due to the in-game clock. There’s never enough time in a game’s day to do all I want. Each time my character wakes up, I have to choose what my day will look like. Will I farm and milk my cows and plant new crops? Will I spend the day fishing and gathering? Or will I spend hours in the mines, fighting off slimes and digging for gold?
There’s so much that I can imagine some players only doing specific things their whole play through. Me? I like doing a bit of everything and see all there is to see. As my second year in the game rolls around, I’m more excited for my crop choices and barn expansions. And I still want to do more.
The characters are probably the secret weapon in this game. Goals are nice and designing my farm is fun but the people you meet in town give it personality. I’ve played games that are huge in scope but only leave me feeling lonely because the characters I meet are empty vessels of conversation trees and quest markers. But each villager you interact with in Stardew Valley has their own goals, regrets and personal journey. Romancing has a simple charm to it, people falling in love through gift giving, but there’s a story to it all. AS you learn more about each character, you want to know more and soon you’re trying to unlock all possible stories.
When my wife has gone to bed and I’m left with the choices of what to do with the night, it all comes back to Stardew Valley. Nothing feels as relaxing as sitting at the beach while trying to catch squid or exploring the depths of the mines looking for Purple Mushrooms. Nothing feels quite as satisfying as harvesting quality potatoes or producing duck egg mayonnaise. Maybe this is more of a critique of my current life, my current contentment. It’s not like I want to own a farm myself.
But the Super Nintendo graphics are so charming, the music is so relaxing and the characters you meet are unique and funny that it’s almost a convincing pitch of farm life. And it keeps you coming back. I enjoyed Prison Architect but, after finishing the campaign modes, I haven’t returned. Stardew Valley has content to spare.
Again, this is probably as much about me as it is the game. Medal of Honor: Frontline left a strong impression on me as a teenage because I was unhappy with my life at the time and I wanted to feel like a hero. But, joining the army would have been the wrong choice for me back then.
Stardew Valley is a great game. It’s addicting, it has personality and helps me wind down after the day. But it also taps into a part of me that isn’t satisfied, that isn’t excited to start a new day. It taps into the adult I’ve become and makes me wonder if I’ve taken the right roads.
In the game, I’m goal driven. I have long term and short term plans and I work towards them with determination. In the game, I’m people oriented. I work to find out the character’s likes and dislikes, befriend and romance and attend all the parties. In the game, I’m exhausted at night and jump out of bed in the morning.
In the game, I’m who I’d like to be in real life.
Did Eric Barone mean to make a Rorschach Test when he created this game alone? Did he mean for it to sell one million copies so that some people would rethink their life? I doubt it, but that’s what happened with me. I like my job and love my friends but where am I supposed to put down roots? Because no one is going to give me their old farm and save me from the mundane.
Maybe I can take the positive lessons from Stardew Valley and become more goal-oriented in life. Maybe I can take this discontentment and work for something that will bring me more peace. If I prefer the person I am in the game, maybe it’s time to be that person in the real world.