Escapism: How mundanity in games can be good for mental wellbeing during strife
Updated: Jun 18
There is something oddly comforting in repetition, isn’t there? It might seem boring (hell it often is). More so when doing the repetitive thing all day, every day is all you do. But there comfort to be had, knowing what you can expect and how to plan your life. Currently we are not living in such a time. Life and everything else has been turned upside down by the pandemic and other recent events.
Some countries are handling things better than others and vice versa. In times of national stress and uncertainty, humans tend to look for meaning. Normally through means of distraction from the fear and uncertainly in reality. I found myself thinking about this while I was playing Stardew Valley recently. We need games like this more than ever now. Because people need to look after themselves, not just financially and physically but also mentally. Games like Stardew Valley, Animal Crossing and My Time at Portia are a deeply important means of relaxation. They can help release stress and allow for some escapism.
A little ramble
One of the main draws to all three games I mentioned in the intro, was the comfort of repetition. Each day your character wakes up and performs a series of tasks (watering your crops/harvesting the crops). You can either sell said crops or keep them in order remain fed while mining and exploration. The idea that you have plans that can be fulfilled (saving up for the extension on the house) has some comfort to it. You have to plan your crop harvest in time with the seasons which are consistent. It can decrease the stress you might be experiencing, so you can deal with your problems in the real world.
It is not surprising that all of three games mentioned are very wholesome in atmosphere and in visuals. Hell the entire premise of Stardew Valley is about escaping from the dull monotony of city life. I suspect it is a fantasy a lot of city folk dream of. Even more so then ever due to pandemics forcing people into their apartments (or worse). Entertainment that indulges in this particular fantasy can be liberating. They are freeing themselves from the claustrophobia that they have to deal with (for a while).
How it can help
Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing embrace the fantasy of being free. They help the player forget their surroundings and indulge in the sensation of walking without risk of sickness. The player can enjoy the romanticised ideal of a farmer as well. They do not have to worry about the unpleasant aspects of the profession, like droughts, flooding (or worse).
It is also worth noting how nice (or at least human) Pelican Town’s occupants are. Humans can often be dicks, even more so in times of national stress and terror. Even though the townsfolk are not real, and Pelican Town is in a perpetual state blissful contentment. One could find the pleasant interactions with good people refreshing.
Although fictional, the air of good village life and sweet interactions between decent people can be very soothing. It can do wonders in maintaining hope and connections. Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing have multiplayer options. This will allow people to keep in contact with friends and family. But also avoid the toxic communities of LoL and Dota 2.
We can get through this:
In times of paranoia, uncertainty and conspiracy theories, mental health care is important in order to survive. One must maintain as much control over one’s life as possible. It is important to set aside some time to take care of yourself while a storm is raging. Whether that means meditation, reading the bible or playing an hour or two of Animal Crossing. Whatever that helps you stay sane in these difficult times. We have to take care of ourselves and each other. We all need some stability. Sometimes, video games are the best means of giving us that. An artificial stability can prepare us for the chaos now and in the future.
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