Games allow us to do a great many things: fly, fight ghosts, garden out of season. While gardening may not be the most magical of skills, nor the most common topic for gaming, it can be almost as rewarding as the real thing when it’s done right with few of the downsides.
The WWAC family discussed some of our favorite gardening games just in time for spring (at least in the Northern Hemisphere). Grab yourself a digital spade and virtual fertilizer and get planting.
According to what I’m sure is some sketchy reporting from Steam, I have played 172 hours of Stardew Valley since its launch two months ago. I’ve never loved a Harvest Moon or a Farmville, but part of the design of Stardew Valley is the pleasant process of farming. All of the produce is unique, and you can track its progress with little buds or blossoms. My partner has fallen victim to many delighted shouts of, “Artichoke day!” or “I’m melon rich!” when my digital farming efforts yield an enormously profitable crop. Your farming implements are upgradable too, so as you become wealthier — or more melon-rich — farming scales upwards and outwards; the economic growth of my farm is something I’ve discussed pridefully with real alive humans.
I love gardening, but I live in the Pacific Northwest and spend much of the year with my nose pressed to the back door, watching my plants drown in the rain. But that’s why I have Viridi! Viridi is a free-to-play succulent tending game that perfectly soothes my desire to grow things year-round, and it has none of the stress, dirt, or aching muscles of actual gardening. A lot of people also recommend it as a soothing activity for those with anxiety–while it hasn’t particularly helped me in that regard, the music is pretty, the colors are lovely, and it’s satisfying to spritz my little babies with water and watch the “wow cute” snail circle my pot. It’s all the good stuff and none of the tedious fiddling with spiny weeds or surprise spiders.
Dragon Age: Inquisition
Adding a garden to Skyhold was one of many things that made me happy. I totally ignored the suspicious actions and knowledge of one apostate mage once he led our rag tag band to the keep in the mountains. Elves might be responsible for the apocalypse you say? Never mind that! I can choose the curtains and change the throne in Skyhold! I wish the garden had been more robust though, rather than just a few pots around the well. Perhaps this would have prevented me from constantly stopping to harvest plants and other crafting materials in the middle of missions. “BRT. Elfroot.”
I truly love my Sims 4 gardens. Like many other things about The Sims, they’re a sort of wish fulfillment for me; I like to think that, if I had my dream plot of fresh soil, I’d grow all kinds of beautiful organic vegetables to use as ingredients when I’m cooking gourmet recipes in my dream kitchen… I may not be so lucky, but my Sims are living the dream for me! Every household I create has their own little vegetable orchard, and after considerable time and effort some of them may evolve into a perfect garden. I love the idea of a self-sustainable home, and if you turn a blind eye to the unrealistic prices at which you can sell your produce, you can enact a version of that fantasy in The Sims.
Or you can grow an army of guardian Cow Plants. That’s totally cool, too.
Final Fantasy XI
I’m not a fan of slow, meticulous processes that require a lot of my attention. I’m all about the instant gratification. My husband is the opposite. MMOs work for both of us in these ways and none more so than the one we played the longest, and the one I loved the most: Final Fantasy XI. Everything in this game is highly involved. It’s much easier to do things now, but if you want to be your best, you have to take many things into consideration. First and foremost is the elements around which the world of Vana’diel is centred, which manifest in the weather, the days, and crystals: fire, water, earth, wind, light, dark, water. If you want to make your garden grow well and yield the greatest crop of your desire, you need to be on the ball, starting with what seed you plant and what kind of pot you plant it in, when and what crystals you “water” it with, and when you harvest. My husband loves crafting and micromanaging. He used this to augment farming for crafting materials and I was frequently left with plant care instructions if he wasn’t around at the necessary time.
Melissa Brinks is Sidequest’s editor in chief, co-creator of the Fake Geek Girls podcast, author of The Compendium of Magical Beasts, and an aspiring beekeeper. She once won an argument on the internet, and tweets at @MelissaBrinks.