ANIMAL CROSSING AND STARDEW VALLEY: Finding enjoyment at your own pace.

In simulation videogames, you are often given the freedom to create and customise a character of your choice and provide guidelines for their living situation. These are two elements that are introduced at the start of your playtime and are two that never leave, giving you the creative freedom to maintain either constant change or to keep a set vision for which you want to achieve for your character, their living space, or the town you live in and the relationships you have with other characters in the game. This is the selling point of enjoyment for simulation games. There is no deadline or limits for what you should create, and when you should have it by. You are given an open workspace to create something truly personal or live out a dream, and either way satisfaction comes close to nothing as the actions you carry out are often effortless, allowing you to truly be involved and live inside the game where you are in charge and help craft. These starting points play a key development for the passion that can start to flourish, and the feelings and connections we can have for videogames. Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley are two simulation games that you can devote yourself too, and be even more passionate about.

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Stardew Valley start up screen
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Animal Crossing title art

Starting off in Animal Crossing, you are a newcomer to a town. Life is already simple as you take on the position of someone who has decided to move away to somewhere new, to potentially be someone new and create something for yourself for a change. After a few introductory tasks that break no sweat off your back, you eventually work towards being presented with your first house by the infamous Tom Nook, who eventually remodels your home into bigger spaces in return for some simple fee’s in his eyes. But, on the plus side, there is no need to be rushing around paying rent or bills as that burden is taken away in Animal Crossing. Now the power is within you to make your house a home. Players are given the opportunity to select from a wide variety of wallpapers, flooring, furniture, roofing and walls for their home. These come as purchasable items from Tom Nook’s stores, which replenishes with new stock daily, or can be gifted to you from other villagers in the town if you carry out favours for them, also establishing friendships between you both. From being given a simple living and bedroom spaces, the freedom is all yours to make it as you see wish. You can pile all your favourite furniture over time into a room, or have set furniture to create the perfect match. The possibilities are endless, and most of all, it is always in your image and as you see fit. More importantly, there is no rush to make anything perfect. You are given the time to find out what you like and what is perfect for you. Animal Crossing is about working towards a result and goal for yourself. You can have plans and intentions for your character and living spaces, and although Animal Crossing runs on real time, there is no rush or need to shove everything in to one single day. The flexibility in Animal Crossing is what has made it so appreciated and loved. The music that accompanies the game can uplift any mood, matches any set of weather the game might throw at you and changes depending on the time to fit to the mood of the hour.

 

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Animal Crossing allows its players to incorporate their own sense of style from the world of clothing as well as with furniture and colours. With many clothes and styles to select from, players are once again in control, and free to express themselves at their own pace overtime to create the perfect, fitting wardrobe you can constantly add to, throw away and not get bored of. Most of all, the clothes are always going to fit you and there is no need to wash them. Instead of doing daily household tasks like such, you can explore the beach, go for a coffee, shop, fish, plant and garden, catch bugs or dig up fossils. Just be careful not to fall into any pitfall seeds.

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Shopping for clothes
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Shopping for items and furniture

The simplicity of the day-to-day life and the activities you can partake in Animal Crossing in your own time creates a very valued and important atmosphere for its players. Importantly, Animal Crossing can be used for escapism from a real day-to-day life, and although a simulation, Animal Crossing gives us an insight into how reality should make us feel and works as model for how we wish we could perceive and interact with the real world around us. Animal Crossing is something to keep coming back to, not because of its replay value but because of how it can make us feel and the comforts the world of Animal Crossing can continuously provide. Simulation videogames such as Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley allow their players to have a revolving table of personally set goals to achieve and work towards, again in their own time creating a sense of ease and a focus of being able to do one thing at a time and fully commit to it. The greatest sense of achievement and satisfaction in Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley comes from seeing all your small tasks and accomplishments contribute towards a bigger picture. Players can look back once the game is developed and say that they helped to form a town or create a farm. No detail is too large or small and every little detail can be taken into consideration to create something perfect for yourself.

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A detailed town on Animal Crossing
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A developed farm on Stardew Valley

Very similarly to Animal Crossing, in Stardew Valley you move to a new town. However, the circumstances that contribute to your arrival in a new town, Pelican Town slightly differ as Stardew Valley adds a backstory as to why you have moved to a new town for a new life. After facing the stress and tension that many of us will sadly come to know or have known from working for a corporation or company, and having life feel as though it is on repeat, Stardew Valley provides that chance for your character to move away from a dead-end job and to do something for yourself. The character’s grandfather, who has passed away, had once experienced the same tribulation that many of us have and left his job to start work on a farm. The character reads a letter from their grandfather and it notes that they may one day find themselves in the same situation and this is where Stardew Valley’s story begins.

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The characters previous job in Stardew Valley
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Now, getting to grips with farming

The land the character’s grandfather once possessed is overgrown and unliveable apart from the old cabin, and this is where your task commences to tend to the land to make it a thriving haven for yourself to make a living and more importantly, enjoy yourself. Once you have cleared some of the land, you can grow fruits, vegetables, other crops and agricultural products dependent on the season, and of your choosing. As your farm grows, and you get to grips with being part of a new community. You discover that there is a lot for you to tend to and discover in Pelican Town. At first, the townsfolk are reluctant to be friendly and kind to you upon your arrival as a stranger, but upon learning their likes and dislikes you can develop friendships with them and in return for completing quests and deliveries for them, you can be rewarded and can integrate. The investments you make in Stardew Valley can transform your land and your relationships with other characters. Over time, you gain access to new recipes, exclusive dialogue and cut scenes, and the chance to marry and have children. Once again, there is the opportunity to explore a world at your own pace at your own choosing thanks to a wide variety of locations on the map and being able to follow your own routine completing daily tasks, exploration or set rituals. Players have the option to choose their own paths and specialities, and make money and grow their farm as they see fit. With numerous upgrades and unlockable content in the worlds of construction and farm animals, there is always something to work for in Stardew Valley if you have gathered the necessary materials, which never come at a strain to the player.

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The characters skills page

Simulation videogames can often do wonders for your mental health because of their simplicity and the comforts they can provide, whether it is with animals, foraging, gardening, cooking, construction or friendships. But, Stardew Valley incorporates mental health into the game with characters suffering from depression and alcoholism. By doing so, Stardew Valley promotes the discussion of issues we normally shield from others and ourselves. You can see how they can affect characters as they describe their symptoms and feelings in conversation, and this can help to make individuals feel less isolated if you suffer yourself to any degree from any personal or mental struggle. By having someone to relate to, there is nothing to feel embarrassed or ashamed of as the best outcome can be to promote discussion and help ourselves look after the people we know and ourselves.

Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing become not only fun and comforting to play, but offer genuine friendships. The real comfort stems from how they have the power to make us feel less isolated, and you are never alone with whatever problem you face, big or small as they allow us some time out to cope with the real world. More importantly, there is never any right or wrong actions and decisions for players to make. The worlds are of your own choosing and will always heap rewards.

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A festival in Stardew Valley
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Celebrating the completion of a public works project in Animal Crossing

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