What video games can teach us: finding simplicity in a chaotic world

By Percy Mohn

Elm Staff Writer

This world is too busy. If you ask me what I am up to on a Saturday night, I will probably tell you that I am either studying, working on a paper, or doing something for the theater department. If you ask other students, they will say something similar, or at least reveal just how busy they are.

We are so busy in our lives that we become anxious and overwhelmed. Our minds become cluttered and our health can decline. It was not until recently that I discovered just how to destress: a videogame called Stardew Valley.

I am not saying that Stardew Valley is the key to all happiness, but it does teach us an important lesson about embracing simplicity.

At the beginning of the game, you are greeted with a scene where your character is working at their computer. They are hunched over their laptop, eyes drooping with tiredness as they type endlessly.

However, upon opening a letter given to them by their grandfather, they find that he has left them a farm and farmhouse in the quiet, remote town of Stardew. In the letter, their grandfather states that the main character is “in dire need of a change” and that the same thing happened to him years ago. He also says that he’d “lost sight of what mattered most in life…real connections with other people and nature.” So, like their grandfather, the main character takes the chance and decides to work on the farm, embracing a new, simple way of life.

You work on the farm, doing menial tasks like harvesting turnips, feeding and brushing your animals, and talking to the villagers to cultivate friendships. The story of the game involves you driving an evil corporation out of your village for the benefit of your new friends. There is a lot to do, yet, the game is slow-paced and easy. As Tanner Kinney of Byte said, “Stardew Valley is life, but without all the bad parts.”

While hardcore players may disagree about it being simple, Stardew Valley demonstrates the simplicity that is needed in the overly busy world we live in. Like the character at the beginning of the game, we find ourselves miserable amid busyness. If we are not busy, we are often viewed as being lazy, and we feel like we are not doing enough. However, if we are too busy, we often find ourselves overwhelmed and distressed.

This world is far too fast-paced, and we often struggle to keep up. What we really need to do, in order to avoid this destructive busyness, is to slow down, and embrace a simpler lifestyle.

Decreasing the amount of work you do in your daily life can lead to many positive outcomes, as Stacy Brookman writes in her article on Medium.com. She said, “Extravagance is often a picture of an unsatisfied life” and that “It is often in the simplest things that we find true happiness.”

She later goes on to say that simplicity can help you overreact less and helps your physical health improve, since simplicity allows you to declutter your mind.

Reducing stressors in life is not easy for everyone, nor is it the same for everyone. However, there are many tips for achieving a simpler lifestyle.

David Sbarra from Vox describes how he reclaimed his life from busyness. He said that he first started by walking outside, which “provides time to think, to be energized by nature, and to feel less frenzied.” He also said that he had to learn the value of idleness, because doing too many activities can often leave you feeling empty, and that by doing less work, he has more energy to tackle the larger tasks of his day.

In addition to our busyness causing us to feel overwhelmed, we also tend to project this feeling onto others. Oliver Burkeman from The Guardian warns against “busy-bragging” where you boast about how busy you are. He said that busy-bragging “probably makes you feel even busier, because we believe the things we tell ourselves, while making others feel rushed, too.” Nobody wins if you are constantly boasting about how busy you are since “anxiety is contagious.”

If you find yourself overwhelmed, try to find some ways to simplify your lifestyle. Maybe take a walk around outside once the flowers start blooming for spring. Or you could try and take more breaks while you are working, perhaps to play a calming videogame like “Stardew Valley.” Or you could allow yourself to be lazy occasionally. There are many things you can do to lead a simpler life, and they just might make you a much happier person.

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