As we approach final exams and nearing due dates, it becomes more important than ever to pause for a moment and take a break from your stressful schedule. You may decide to take a walk by the river and bird watch or hike up to the fourth floor of Warch to do some wholesome crafting. But I am here to hopefully convince you of the relaxation wonders of the video game series known as Harvest Moon. I began playing Harvest Moon back in 2008 and ever since, I have been completely enamored with the healing powers that this game provides to the gamer.
For those who are not familiar, Harvest Moon is a farming simulation game that encompasses all of the positive aspects of life, including love, marriage, children, holidays, friendship and so much more. The premise revolves around the main character (you) building up your farm and raising animals with love and care. There are characters in the game that you can befriend and also those that you can court and eventually marry. The story includes a mystical aspect, with special characters including The Harvest Goddess, the Witch Princess, Harvest Sprites and more. These magical characters allow you to participate in the whimsical alongside the mundane and domestic.
You may be wondering, “Simone, this seems great, but how is this supposed to help me with anxiety and stress?” Well, allow me to explain: Harvest Moon follows a story of seasons where the scenery, crops, flowers and items change according to the season. In summer, you can plant corn, onions, pumpkins and more. In spring, there are strawberries, cucumbers, potatoes and turnips. As you can see, this variety based on the seasons allows for a very relaxing routine. In addition, caring for your animals builds your character and selling your crops makes you proud. Living this daily life and raising your friendships with characters is an unbelievably relaxing experience, as it lulls you into a routine while fostering good social habits and life skills. In addition, farming is the polar opposite of what most of us are doing here in college. I find that stepping back for a moment and immersing myself into a completely different lifestyle is comforting in a way only role-playing games are. Although the perpetuity of the game may not appeal to you, I can guarantee that there is nothing to worry about because this is a video game that never ends and pauses time when you stop playing (this is a callout of Animal Crossing).
The time in Harvest Moon passes differently than in real life: the days are about twelve minutes long, which forces you to pack the most activity possible into each and every day. You go to sleep at night only to wake up at six in the morning and you do the whole thing over again: water crops, feed animals, talk to people, dig in the mine, collect items outside and more. This continuum of modest daily life allows for the most relaxed gameplay of any video game I have ever played. Woven into this somewhat mundane lifestyle is the ambition to succeed and to do the right thing. You are punished when you do evil things, like poisoning the soup on a festival, or littering. But, you are rewarded for doing good things, like giving gifts and taking care of your animals. It is unbelievably fun to escape from the world for a moment to live a completely different life. Harvest Moon is less about survival and more about fostering a thriving environment to learn and grow in. Suddenly, you are a farmer with a dream instead of a student with debt.
So, to anyone out there drowning in homework and looking for a quick fix of a non-stressful alternate reality simulation, I highly recommend playing any of the Harvest Moon games; their ability to nurture and teach as well as pose challenges is beyond any game I have ever experienced.