The lights are on
I've never envied the life of a farmer.
Early mornings alongside tending crops and raising unpredictable animals
doesn't exactly scream "fun." I still can't remember what drew me to rent the
first Harvest Moon game. Perhaps it was boredom or the cute anime art style,
but little did I know that would be the day an unexpected addiction was born.
That summer of '97 I beat the game four
times – all in the name of seeing what various marriage candidates were like.
The thrill came from being thrust directly into the American dream: Leave home,
make something out of nothing, have a family, and continue to grow (literally)
your success. I remember how magnetic the world was when I stepped in, just
knowing I could hang out at the bar with the locals, spend my night fishing, or
head to the forest and relax in the hot tub. Shaping my story and performing
simple tasks, like buying my first cow and that opening up new possibilities
for meals (hello, yogurt!), make the game what it is. Each individual piece of
the Harvest Moon puzzle is so miniscule, but building around each of those
provides something dazzling.
The satisfaction of nailing down
strategies to woo marriage candidates, maximize my farm profits, and mating my
cows for different breeds is what keeps me coming back. In addition to the
townspeople, who always have their own quirks; I never miss an opportunity to
chat them up. Their back stories are intriguing - like a daughter watching over
her alcoholic father at the tavern or seeing the subtle flirting between the
junk shop and flower shop owner.
I often get sucked into the world and
daily routine, and can't get enough of seeing my little farm grow from a few
crops to full fields and animals galore. Adding in the all the upgrades gives
me something to look forward to and watching the house expand with a significant other and
child is confirmation that I've made a life. The Harvest Moon games are all
about routine, something tiresome in real life, but here it hooks you with the
I've played other simulation games like
Theme Park and Animal Crossing, but none of them had the heart, soul, and
personality of Harvest Moon. Rather than managing a business or town, Harvest
Moon makes me feel like I'm living a life unlike many of its competitors. Part
of why it works so well is it's not a single gimmick. Harvest Moon has the
business challenges, but at the same time, also offers a warm atmosphere where
a calmness envelops me as I strive for new personal in-game goals.
It should be no surprise that since the
first iteration, I've gone on to play almost every entry; from the SNES all the
way to the 3DS, this series has been with me. The fact that I haven't tired of
games that stick so close to the same premise says something. Harvest Moon, though,
is that franchise I play, but rarely talk about – a guilty pleasure, indeed. It
doesn't make any huge leaps, but remains enjoyable to sit down, relax, and
unwind with. I don't want to let go of something that's been like comfort food
for the past 16 years, and why should I if I'm still having fun?
Here's where the
guilt festers: I'm nearing two decades with Harvest Moon, and yet I still feel
embarrassed to admit my obsession. As if I'm not cool if I admit a farming sim
can dictate my life. So today, I've finally mustered the courage to let the
world know. Yes, I adore these games, and I'm fine simply imagining my life as
a farmer. Because I don't like the smell of manure, but I sure do like
maximizing profits and winning over virtual denizens in a vibrant landscape.
Email the author Kimberley Wallace, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.