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How Stardew Valley Taught Me Not To Be So Miserable about 2018

I’ve been a poo-poo head cranky pants this year. I’ll admit that.

But I have reasons. Fake news exasperates me to no end. It hurts my heart to see that people of different skin tones and genders can’t be considered equals. Social media makes me wonder if we aren’t in a period of reverse-Darwinism. Every time I like something nerdy, I have to listen to it being nit picked to death. Some of my favorite celebrities have passed away. I could go on.

2018 could have been a wholly miserable year, except that Stardew Valley has entered into my heart these past couple of days since it has come to iOS. And my daughter has been playing it as well.

If you aren’t familiar with Stardew Valley, where have you been?  I’m not here to give an in-depth explanation, but a summary is thus: Stardew Valley is a throwback side view roleplaying game. The storyline goes that a dying grandpa left his farm to his grandson so that he could escape the rat race of city living, rediscovering the simple joy of working with his hands on a farm. The grandson learns on the job and meets a small town’s worth of quirky townsfolk, developing relationships with them through gift giving.

Stardew Valley is on pretty much every video game platform and has recently come to iOS, which is where my daughter started playing.

How Stardew Valley taught me not to be so miserable.

It’s ridiculous that I’ve enjoyed Stardew Valley so much these past couple of days, which is probably why it warms my heart so. I’m a grizzled old Gen Xer who has lived 40+ years of cynicism. In my life I have seen buildings fall, leaders disappoint, shuttles explode, injustices applauded, wars get waged, and Firefly be cancelled.

But playing a couple days of Stardew Valley is a 20 minute reminder that there is something pure left in the world. Stardew Valley completely lacks cynicism. It’s appropriate that my 10-year-old daughter can play it, opening up an opportunity for she and I to talk strategy and find things together. It’s a delight.

So, I say with all sincerity, gosh darned gee golly, I’m going to try my best to inject a little bit of the joyous charm that permeates Stardew Valley into my daily life. Sure, it might be a futile attempt of the power of positive thinking, but as the ‘ole philosophers Plato and Jesus would teach, if you want to be a good person, you should try to be a good person and through that practice you will be made perfect.

Here’s where I’m starting:

  • I’m going to gloss over the fact that The Last Jedi wasn’t a perfect movie (because no movie is) and I’m instead going to punch the air because that thing Luke Skywalker did was the most bada$$ thing in any Star Wars movie ever, which is awesome.
  • When I read something nerdy online that I enjoy, I’m going to remember that I just got free content, and I’ll take a moment to write a brief comment of thanks or signal boost to work.
  • I’m going to write more about 80s X-Men, board games, and Starfinder, because I love those things.
  • I’m going to give people the benefit of the doubt, because I’d hope they’d do the same for me, and I don’t want to live in a world where people are eternally punished and never given the opportunity to makes amends for a non-egregious one time dumb thing, should they genuinely be trying to do better.
  • I’m going to remind folks of comics like Squirrel Girl, Power Man and Iron Fist, and my friend and colleague Ross Hardy’s Library of Alexandria. Because they are fun and lack cynicism, and we shouldn’t have to always feel like we are stuck reading big crossover comic events.
  • I’m going to reread my daughter’s review of a Wonder Woman book where she was reminded she could be a hero.
  • I’m not going to hate watch or hate read anything out of habit. I’ll just move on to happier places because there is so much good stuff out there for nerds.
  • I’m also going to tell you about the books of Becky Chambers because they are gosh-darned delightful science fiction books and they spread joy everywhere.

That’s just a start for me, but you have to start somewhere. Years and years of slowly turning into a poo-poo head cranky pants will take a while to rewind. I imagine it will be a couple steps forward, followed by a step or two back. I do enjoy my dystopian landscapes, after all. But if Stardew Valley can remind us of the simple things in life, I can at least try.

How about you? How are you heading into 2019 with a little more joy and sincerity in your life? I’m open to suggestions. But no grim and gritty anti-heroes please. I want more stuff like Stardew Valley in my life.

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