Tag Archives: Life Sucks

Depression in Stardew Valley Sucks

A few days ago I became legitimately depressed while playing Stardew Valley. It was both kinda funny and sad at how awful I felt over the game; I didn’t know whether I should laugh about it or feel depressed by being depressed by a video game, let alone Stardew Valley. This incident also shined some light on my own personality and the lack of self confidence I have in life. This post will probably be deeper than you might expect from a Stardew Valley inspired post, but here goes.

Here’s where I give a shitty overview of the game in case people don’t know what I’m talking about: Stardew Valley is a game where you farm stuff and live in a tiny village. You can talk to, befriend, and even marry some of the residents in the town. I don’t know how important all of that is to the main story of the game, but the game does stress the aspect of community, which freshens it up from being only a farming simulator. Anyway, it’s also a cutesy, 2D top down, “kiddie game” as one of my friends described it. This almost makes the incident worse because as stated it’s a kids game: It shouldn’t punch me right in the feels, especially as directly as it did.

In-game Jeremy wandering the fuck around.

There’s a community dance (The Flower Dance) that happens in the forest around day 25. It’s an optional thing to do so whatever, no big deal. I went to the dance because I’m trying to be the friendly new guy in town who is trying his damndest to fit in and be accepted in the community. I should also say that up to this point in the game I’ve been a very diligent and socially-isolated farmer: I’m toiling away in my fields every single day either chopping wood for fertilizer, planting/harvesting/watering the crops, or running into town to buy more seeds. While some people might be fucking around socializing in town all day, I’m trying to turn my farm into the most fantastic farm ever and give the community something to be proud of. Because fuck the JoJa Corporation and Capitalism in general. I’m all about seizing the means of production, even if I haven’t told Mayor Lewis any of my intentions yet…

Pam is a beauty…

So Jeremy who is the new resident of Stardew Valley — let’s call him in-game Jeremy — shows up to the dance and starts talking to people. Some of the townsfolk he sort of knowns, and others appear to be new faces. Mayor Lewis allows in-game Jeremy to decide when the dance should actually start (since the game sort of revolves around in-game Jeremy for some terrible reason. Unbeknownst to in-game Jeremy he is, in fact, the player character. The story literally revolves around him). After talking to most of the people in-game Jeremy realizes that he can ask people to dance with him. Oh shit! He actually found this when he accidentally asked the emo gothic guy to dance with him. Luckily he said no but it was still awkward. (“Hey bro, you want to dance with me? No homo tho, I just think those skinny jeans look really good on you.”) In-game Jeremy then proceeds to confidently ask the females, being picky at first but then growing desperate and asking anyoneeven the trashy, alcoholic Pam but you can’t actually ask her — if they would like to dance. They usually replied with something like this:

“Oh! Oh! I’m sorry…I, er…have plans to ask someone else.”

“I’m flattered! But…no.”

“That’s flattering…but I’m gonna have to say no. Sorry.”

“I’ll be honest. I don’t want to dance with you.”

“Eww…No.”

Holy fuck game, thanks for the hefty dose of rejection. So in-game Jeremy, with no one to dance with, finally walks up to Mayor Lewis and gives him the go-ahead to start the dance. In game Jeremy wants to just get the stupid-ass dance over with so he can head back home and go to sleep. He’s sick of these people, their rejection, and their unappreciation of him, his hard work, and his farm.

After the dance in-game Jeremy goes to his house and goes to bed. It’s night and there’s nothing to do. He almost thought about watering the crops before bed, but fuck the plants too, they can wait. In the morning, in-game Jeremy stares at the crops and doesn’t actually want to do any work, but he sure as fuck isn’t going to town today to socialize with those assholes. He doesn’t want to work on the crops but there’s nothing else to do with his life so he begrudgingly gets to work. Watering. Weeding. Planting. Harvesting. Urgh. Not that anyone appreciates it. “Fuck this place,” In-game Jeremy says as he toils in the fields the day after the dance.

A few days later, still feeling shitty but not quite as shitty, in-game Jeremy realizes that it’s Emily’s birthday, and that he should give her a gift. Maybe a flower? After he picks a few flowers and heads into town he stops and thinks, “Is she even going to like this? She probably won’t even give a shit if I give her a gift or not. If anything it’ll be the wrong gift and she’ll hate me.” In-game Jeremy goes up to the “shipping bin” where you place products your farm has created, and chucks the flowers into that. Emily has no idea in-game Jeremy was even going to give her a gift and goes about her day knowing nothing of the conflict that occured in in-game Jeremy’s head. In-game Jeremy continues to sulk and overthink things as he tends to his garden daily. “Pretty sure all the fuckers hate me,” he thinks to himself.

The next day in-game Jeremy finally drags his ass into town. He ran into Haley, a young and beautiful blonde lady who lives in town. He tries talking to her, just to say “Hi” or “How’s your day going?” The game informed in-game Jeremy that: 

HALEY IS IGNORING YOU

“Maybe you should, like, kill yourself? No one likes you or your stupid farm!”

Jesus Christ, Stardew Valley is depressing as fuck.

In-game Jeremy then stops into Pierre’s store to find some rope for a noose, but sadly Pierre doesn’t sell rope. Not that in-game Jeremy has unlocked the noose-crafting node anyways. In-game Jeremy, as depressed as he is, is hopelessly stuck in the world with no way to escape.

While I was trying to strike a clear difference between me — IRL Jeremy — and my avatar in-game (in-game Jeremy) I found it kinda difficult to do in practice. When you play a game that is as absorbing as Stardew you kinda become the player character and this is a good thing. (“This game really makes you feel like Spiderman!”) While in-game Jeremy felt like shit over being rejected by everyone in town, it also became difficult for IRL Jeremy to also not feel rejected, even if there was no reason to feel that way. While IRL Jeremy was laughing at the brutal and consist nature of in-game Jeremy’s rejection something inside was also being stirred around. The vague shadow of repressed memories, fears of total social rejection, and loneliness from high school/college swam at the corners of my consciousness. What if everyone I know actually hates me? What do people say about me when I’m not around? Am I really as awkward as I think I am? Does anyone actually appreciate me? It was kinda scary. Faced with the “fun, kid-friendly” story and graphics of Stardew Valley, it almost seemed surreal in a way. This game was making me feel like shit about my own life and had me questioning all my real relationships and my worth in the world.

I also felt bitter and angry towards the damn in-game townsfolk; these people aren’t even real and I was pissed at them! Logically it made sense that no one wanted to dance with in-game Jeremy because he was the new guy in town who has only been around for 25 days (or like 2.5 months if you take Stardew time in terms of a year) and who wasn’t being social at all or making zero effort to socialize. The town basically sees in-game Jeremy as a recluse farmer who never talks to people but then shows up and creepily asks every person available to dance. No shit they said no! If I was a video game NPC like these people I’d also say no! In-game Jeremy — you socially-inept idiot — you have to make actual effort in relationships for them to work. And if that isn’t hitting things a bit close for IRL Jeremy as well. I found myself questioning how much effort I put into friendships and if I expect other people to do all the work. Or do I just show up and expect people to like me when I do nothing likeable at all? Do I show enough interest in other people? Or am I self-centered asshole that metaphorically is a recluse farmer who tends his fields all day? Once again I wasn’t expecting goddamn life lessons from Stardew but here we are.

One of the highlights of the game so far. I was pissed and fishing off this bridge just because, and Abigail walked up and stood next to me. She stood there for hours watching me fish and neither of us said anything. In-game Jeremy was utterly focused on catching those damn fish and gave no outward sign of his appreciation, but he loved her for being there keeping him company.

I’m complaining here but you have to give the game credit: usually people play video games just to kill time, to have fun, or to escape the real world for a little bit. To feel some progress in a game world to counteract the utter difficulty and lack of progress in the real world. It’s a rare game that somehow acts as a mirror and puts yourself up there on display for you to analyze, especially if said game is usually viewed as a “kids game.” This allows you to lower your defenses and to be vulnerable, not realizing that you’re about to get utterly punched in the feels so aggressively that it resonates with your actual self. Stardew Valley made in-game Jeremy feel like a loser who would never properly fit in with the townsfolk even if he really wanted to, and that made IRL Jeremy also feel the same way, constantly searching for approval, community, and appreciation. The depressive mood didn’t last for long, maybe twenty minutes or so, but it was twenty minutes that I was not prepared for at all. It was an eye-opening experience that I wasn’t at all ready for. Fuck you Stardew Valley for being such a good game.

Life Sucks (as a Video Game)

The author Kurt Vonnegut touched upon the idea that everyone thinks they’re the protagonist of the world they’re in and everyone else are NPCs — the people that only exist to serve the protagonist. Check this out from his novel Breakfast of Champions:

I thought Beatrice Keedsler had joined hands with other old-fashioned storytellers to make people believe that life had leading characters, minor characters, significant details, insignificant details, that it had lessons to be learned, tests to be passed, and a beginning, a middle, and an end.

He then goes on to blame the current state of society on this flawed outlook promoted by stories, writers, and other artists. It’s a decent book, Check it Out!

Stevie!

I don’t think we all have that extremely dark view of society but I do think most of us view ourselves as “the primary hero” while other people are just sort of there. I also think the only people that really get outside of that worldview are probably Buddhist monks or something. This obviously becomes a problem because, well, we’re probably not the main character and are most likely random NPCs ourselves. By thinking you’re the hero and living a pretty average and mundane life you think you’re a total failure. You’re not saving the world so what are you even doing?

Video games are guilty of promoting this worldview and self-image in everyone the same as other forms of entertainment. In games you usually play as a hero and do some hero shit like saving the world or defeating some Evil Power™. This obviously isn’t realistic and considering that, what would a game be like that was as accurate to real life as possible? Many games have mechanics that simulate parts of real life (the Grand Theft Auto series comes to mind) but those occurs on a superficial level. Sure you can drive cars like in real life but the lack of consequences in GTA breaks any real comparison. The Sims do a good job too, especially with the game-breaking existential crisis that inevitably occurs after playing for too long. Real life also has much more due to chance while games put you in charge of nearly everything. So, what would that game look like?

To start, it’d be boring and no one would want to play it. The Life Game would consists of you doing some stupid and boring task for hours and hours while earning hardly any useful in-game cash. Everything you need to buy is also really expensive. Instead of buying the best car ever you can only afford a shitty, 15-year-old vehicle to get you to and from work just so you can continue to make shitty money. Food also takes up the rest of the cash you earn. It’d be hours upon hours of absolute nothingness to just buy food and other essential items.

As the game starts you could randomly die as well. This is mostly dependent upon where you’re born which is totally due to chance. You could spawn in a poor country and die in the first few minutes thanks to malnourishment or disease and there’s nothing you can do to change your fate. Once you start the game that’s what you are given. You could end up in a decent area where healthcare is abundant, but you could also, by chance, end up in a shithole and die within a short timespan.

You could be born into a family that has tons of money, but that would be really rare. Once again you don’t have any choice in all of that because it’s all random. Being rich would also take all the fun out of The Life Game because you can do whatever you want with little to no challenge. At least starting off poor gives you a challenge somewhat. If you’re not starting off in abject poverty that is.

Another fun aspect of The Life Game is that you could randomly die at anytime. You could be in the safest area possible but someone could randomly kill you with a bus or a gun or whatever. Sometimes even airplanes fall onto your house although that is reserved for only the most unluckiest people. The same is true for lightning. But the fact is that anyone could die at anytime with little to no warning. The Life Game doesn’t care about what quest your on or how important you are or how much cash you have and you’ll just randomly die.

The most interesting aspect of The Life Game would be the lack of a main quest. You’d think this might be fun because you can “make your own goals” but after a few hours the gameplay just lacks meaning. It’ll be like Minecraft or The Sims where you have a pretty decent time exploring and learning the game mechanics and creating useless bullshit, but then the lack of a main quest gets to you. Eventually in Minecraft or The Sims you look around the world and realize this is it. Then you quit playing because you’re bored and the game is meaningless. The same happens in Kerbal Space Program after you’ve explored the entire solar system. There simply isn’t anything left to do. The same would happen in The Life Game because there’s no reason or purpose for you to be there. There are side quests to accomplish but those are usually shitty by giving you little reward for completing them or by being too hard to actually accomplish in the first place. You could sell your furniture on Craigslist or get a PhD in astrodynamics for example. Or you could blog about how shitty The Life Game is. But you don’t have to because they’re side quests. There is no world to save, no overarching evil to destroy, and no princess to save. You could just do nothing. So what do you even do in this game?

And one last thing: The Life Game only lets you play once. Some people think that you might get to play multiple times but they don’t know that for sure. If you’re the unlucky soul that dies in the first five minutes of the game, well, too bad but that’s all you get! The ones who make it farther into the game should feel special for doing so well, but since the game is so shitty no one really feels good about it. Hell, some people even quit the game on purpose. That’s how terrible The Life Game is.

If life was a video game is would fucking Suck. There wouldn’t be a main quest and the difficulty curve would be ridiculous but in a really lame and cheap way. You’d just die randomly and without good cause. Sometimes you’d just die as soon as you started the game, once again without cause or reason. Some people spawn in ridiculously privileged ways and others are spawned in ridiculously unfair conditions. You dick around trying to keep yourself busy but since there isn’t a main quest nothing ever seems very pointful. The Life Game Sucks.