How the simplicity of Stardew Valley helped me through a rough time

Hey, Gamers! This is actually the second time I’m writing this post. The first one felt more… trauma dumping and I didn’t want anyone to feel like I was minimising their efforts by talking about myself. So, I’m writing this again because I feel like it’s a really important post, and I was just coming at it from the wrong angle.

Last year, I had a ton going on. On top of university, a family member went through some unexpected medical stuff and it was really hard for the whole family. We actually got Stardew Valley at the beginning of April, if I’m remembering correctly, and I was a bit hesitant because I usually get frustrated with games that don’t give the player much direction. But it helped me, somehow.

At this point, in February 2022, I have not been on Stardew Valley for months. I plan on doing a post about burnout in gaming very soon (this month), but after 180 hours in less than a month, I was just done with the game for a while.

I was on seemingly endless phone calls with family, I really struggled to sleep and even if I did manage to sleep, it was for two to three hours at a time because I needed to work on my dissertation. It was difficult. It was like my brain just wouldn’t shut off.

And that’s when Stardew Valley came in. The simplicity of the game meant that during the times I couldn’t sleep, at least I could give my brain a break by playing it for 10-30 minutes. It’s what I needed the most. I was stuck in such a stressful situation that I couldn’t get out of without avoiding complete responsibility, so Stardew Valley was the best part of my day.

I remember one point, I was in a lot of pain because my face swole a bunch and it was all I could think about because I’m autistic and I couldn’t cope. Playing Stardew Valley was the only time where the tears stopped. And I’ve never had a game that I could just play for a small amount at a time while still being able to distract me from what’s going on.

The simplicity of the gameplay and the scenes with each person in town kept me wanting to play the game over and over again. I really rushed to get married and have kids because I think at this point I was going through a “having a baby will solve all my problems” phase again, so being able to have kids in this game and forming relationships was a huge deal for me. I got with Josh when I was 17, just about to turn 18. I never really thought much about forming new relationships with other people because he’s my best friend. Whenever I try to make friends in real life, it goes wrong (as I know many other autistics experience). I remember just before I got diagnosed, Josh and I were discussing why it was so important to the both of us that I got this diagnosis or at least signposted to the right one, and Josh said “I can’t keep seeing you in pain over something that isn’t your fault. I can’t keep watching you try so hard, only to crash and burn when they don’t like you as much as we thought they did”. Josh’s main thing was always how much I got hurt by the rejection of failed friendships. Now, I have Josh and one other friend that I try to reply to regularly, and I am okay with that. I don’t think I could cope with more, to be honest, I’m not good at replying. But in Stardew Valley, time stops when you don’t play. They don’t get super mad when you don’t talk to them for a few days. They don’t have better friends that they’d prefer to spend their time with. As selfish as that sounds, I think it’s what I needed.

I think the repetition of the game is also something that was such a huge thing for me during this time of chaos. Breaking down the year into the four seasons and just having the same events each year… would usually bore me. I’d probably play 2 years and be done with it. But it was 100% what I needed. I mean that in all sincerity because as stupid as it sounds, a year is very long. Anything can happen in a year. So much can change and the fact that it didn’t just made me feel… peaceful.

This game gave me peace of mind when I was in a pit of utter chaos.

So, that’s it for this post, Gamers! Do you have a game that helped you in a similar way? Let me know in the comments below! Don’t forget to check out my socials and Twitch, all of which should be linked on my homepage. See you next post, Gamers!

Published by eleanorreeswriting

Hi, I am an autistic gamer in my 20's who loves to share my experiences and thoughts about games, characters and everything about gaming.

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