Two games have taken over my life recently. Animal Crossing (opens in new tab) and Stardew Valley (opens in new tab). Nintendo's slice-of-life sim couldn't have come at a better time and when I've done my daily tasks, given flower crowns to all my villagers, and chilled in the aquarium, I switch to Stardew Valley where my farm and a bountiful crop is waiting for me.
For many, I think Animal Crossing has completely taken over their gaming life (understandably), but for me, Stardew Valley is still hanging in there. Although the two sims share a similar core of cute community life surrounded by a host of charming characters where there are plenty of activities to fill your day, playing both has made their differences crystal clear. It's made me understand why I love playing Stardew Valley so much.
The crux of the two game's differences comes from their opposite approaches to their daily rhythms. Animal Crossing's real-time clock requires more patience meaning I play it in pockets of hourly bursts, unlike Stardew's quick day-night cycle which causes prolonged playtimes where I constantly tell myself 'just one more day' only to thwart my own promises.
I've seen that many players who might be inclined to play Stardew because of it's similarities to Animal Crossing are put off by this aspect. Stardew Valley does focus more on hard labour within a short space of time. The pressure of being plonked in a huge empty lot with just a handful of seeds and some tools is a daunting task, there's so much to do and it's overwhelming, which obviously isn't relaxing for some players.
For myself, once you find a routine, the sense of being overwhelmed melts away. Unlike Animal Crossing's calm easy-breezy lifestyle, farming is hard work and has the greatest feeling of gratification. Waiting thirteen in-game days for your batch of pumpkins to grow then putting them in the shipping bin alongside your collection of freshly grown grapes, eggplants, cranberries and beetroot and seeing the numbers start to roll into the hundreds then thousands is like no other.
Farming takes hard work, dedication, and thoughtful planning and that goes for taking care of the community too. There are festivals to go to, mines to explore, shells to collect, and making sure you catch Leah at 3:00 PM by the river to give her the vegetable medley you cooked specially for her. But also make sure that it's not a Monday because that's when she's in Pierre's store.
I love the planning and preparation that goes into having a thriving farm in Stardew Valley. I love rushing around, scribbling farming plans down on paper before I begin work and the structure of knowing exactly what I'm doing that day.
Animal Crossing, on the other hand, slows this process down. It's calmer and cosier. You can't do everything in one day and so instead of immediate gratification, it asks players to be patient. No schedules, no imposed routine, you wander your island occasionally catching fish and chatting to its chilled residents.
I love both the rhythms of Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley but when I've fished my daily tasks on my tropical island there's always more to do on my farm. Both focus on good-natured fun whether you're into the calmer rhythms of an island paradise or the gratification of growth and reward that comes with farming.