Reveling in Mundanity

Anthony discovers that repetitious mechanics are not always a bad thing.

By Anthony Vigna. Posted 02/05/2014 09:00 6 Comments     ShareThis

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a piece about how I used video games to cope with the arduous nature of my life and how my increasing workload made virtual worlds look more enticing to me. I would do anything to escape my mundane work for brief intervals throughout my day, as entering a world that bared little resemblance to the real world was a dream come true for me. Yet, here I am writing an article titled “Reveling in Mundanity.” Come on Anthony, what gives?

Don’t get me wrong, I still love and adore fictional fantasy worlds for allowing me to escape reality. However, I recently found out that I could find enjoyment in escaping real life mundane work by participating in virtual mundane work instead. You may be questioning my sanity after reading a sentence like that, but I promise that statement makes sense. After all, the ridiculous amount of hours I put into Harvest Moon: A New Beginning speaks for itself. I’ve been doing the same tasks over and over again in that game, yet I can’t put it down!

If you talked to me half a year ago, I would have profoundly expressed my distaste for life simulators. I used to look at games like Animal Crossing and say, “What’s the purpose of this game? All you do is just talk to people and pay off house bills, which is what society already expects me to do in real life.” Harvest Moon had even less appeal to me, since the focus of the game was working on a farm. I had no interest in adding yet another occupation, regardless of its being virtual, to my already busy schedule.

Yet, when I walked into a GameStop a few months ago, I couldn’t stop holding a copy of Harvest Moon: A New Beginning in my hands upon finding it. Every time I looked down at the box, I felt like it was taunting me by saying, “You think you’re better than me, huh? Buy me and put your money where your mouth is!” These obviously real taunts threatened my dignity, so I accepted the box’s challenge and attempted to settle my beef with life simulators once and for all.

I put the cartridge in my 3DS and scoffed at the game after playing it for a few hours. Wow, I thought, all I’m doing is just planting seeds and watering them. Is this supposed to be fun? Fast-forward to the next week, and I was worrying about forging materials for buildings, tending to all of the animals in my barn, watering multiple crops, preparing different kinds of food, and gifting presents to a girl that I could potentially marry. Touché, Harvest Moon! Your monotonous gameplay mechanics somehow sucked me into the series.

Yes, even though I now like Harvest Moon, I am willing to admit that it is a very monotonous game. I still believe that my original perceptions hold up, as the game remains relatively pointless and has a lot of mundane tasks. But, I now see nothing wrong with the game being mundane. In fact, I embrace it!

I know that might seem a little ridiculous, but this is exactly how I feel. Even though I am basically taking part in a virtual job, it isn’t on the same level as an actual job. When I go to work in real life, I’m expected to be there on time and perform within my boss’s expectations. However, when I turn on Harvest Moon, it’s completely voluntary. I want to do these mundane tasks, and I am able to do them on my own accord.

The beauty of the gameplay in Harvest Moon is that you have the freedom to do whatever you want. Sure, the series is famous for its farming mechanics, but if you really hate farming, then you don’t even have to do it! Instead, you could put all of your money into raising animals at a barn. Don’t want to spend your day forging for various materials? Waste away the entire day fishing at your favorite spot by the river! The game never forces you to do anything, making it easy to put up with its repetitious mechanics.

The fact that I can choose to do these tasks at will means that I will never be subjected to doing something that I will not want to do. This means that if I want to keep doing the same thing over and over again, I am able to do so. I often found myself going through the same routine every time I played A New Beginning, but I didn’t find it boring. Instead, it felt therapeutic to constantly do the same things over and over again. When I realized how relaxed the game’s tasks made me feel, I finally understood how repetitious and mundane mechanics could actually be fun. Harvest Moon taught me that every game doesn’t necessarily need the same gameplay fundamentals to be entertaining.

Have you ever had an experience like mine? Do you think I might be certifiably insane? Let me know in the comments below!

6 Responses to “Reveling in Mundanity”

  • 1396 points
    penduin says...

    There’s something to be said for monotonous, safe games. The original GameCube Animal Crossing remains my favorite of the series, and to this day my wife and I spin it up every now and then.

    I love the strategy and drama of Fire Emblem, but just as often I’m not looking to worry that much. I love the globe-spanning grandeur of Splinter Cell, but sometimes I just want something familiar.

    I would even say that with if we include “casual” gaming, safe/monotonous is the norm. The formula Hollywood movie. There are alternatives, there is also “good” and “deep” stuff out there, and as Nintendo fans we’ve been in on that for a long time. But probably, hours-wise, most gaming time is spent doing safe and monotonous stuff. Think of any successful touch-screen or Facebook game. Things that make some of us (myself included) cringe to even call “gaming”.

    Luckily, it doesn’t have to be one or the other. Our home consoles and DSes can serve up repetitive comfort one minute and heart-pounding exotica the next. As with any art form, there are games to suit any mood and taste. I hope to keep expanding my palette!

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  • 1396 points
    penduin says...

    Even more action-oriented games make use of this kind of monotony.

    During Pikmin’s development, the player could pluck up a whole field of pikmin at once with the whistle. Miyamoto had that changed; he felt it was important to pick every one, just like hitting a 10-coin brick in Super Mario. You become more connected to the game world if you have to go through the motions, just as you do with everyday life.

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  • 282 points
    Kyle England says...

    Aw yeah, I’m a huge Harvest Moon fan. Well, a fan of the Nintendo 64 version at least. The newest HM game I have played is A Wonderful Life on GameCube. I just might check out A New Beginning on 3DS, I’m just worried it might not hold up to my beloved HM64.

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    • 1249 points
      Robert Marrujo says...

      Right with you there, Kyle. I was addicted to HM64 when it came out. I remember one day in the summer, I played from early in the morning until like six o’clock at night, and the time passed in the blink of an eye!

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  • 180 points
    Anthony Vigna says...

    I would check it out only if you find a huge appeal in either customization or portability. I missed out on HM64, so everything is all so new and amazing to me in A New Beginning!

    Thumb up 0
  • 189 points
    Jon Stevens says...

    For me, GBA’s Friends of Mineral Town is still one of the best in the series. It just worked!

    Thumb up 0

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