Why do relaxing farming life sims stress me out so much?

Disney Dreamlight Valley unhappy character
(Image credit: Gameloft)

What kind of game makes you rage quit the most? Maybe it's a multiplayer shooter where some weasel drops you with a headshot from across the map, or a punishing combat-focused RPG where a nearly-defeated boss abruptly grows a second health bar before pancaking you with a giant hammer, or an unforgiving platformer that makes you repeat an entire level because of one tiny slip-up on the final obstacle.

For me it's those farming life sim games. Which is weird—the whole idea is that they're supposed to be casual and relaxing. But as calm and chill as they're intended to be, they always wind up stressing me out more than any other game genre. Somewhere in the midst of growing a crop of blueberries, collecting flowers and butterflies, upgrading my cozy little house, and entering personal relationships with gentle characters in a beautiful and serene world… I always wind up completely annoyed. And I don't just rage quit. I usually take it a step further and rage-uninstall.

Here's why I always wind up quitting relaxing farming life sim games after a few days, and always in a terrible, stressed-out mood.

They charge a small fortune for a tiny bit more inventory space

Every so often there's a game where a limited inventory feels like it makes sense. It's usually a survival game, like Valheim or Outward, where part of the challenge is to decide what to bring with you on your journey, often sacrificing certain items at the expense of others. It's like planning a hiking and camping trip, where the physical limitations on what you can carry becomes part of the enjoyment and challenge of the experience.

I definitely don't feel that way in farming life sims. Typically I'm not traveling all that far—across town, into the woods, over to the local merchant to buy a pack of watermelon seeds—and in a fantasy realm where my skills at growing tomatoes and catching fish are the only things that can save the world, I don't get why these games won't let me carry more by default.

(Image credit: Gameloft)

Just one example: Disney Dreamlight Valley starts you with 21 slots in your backpack, and you get a mere seven slots more by paying 5,000 coins. Which is a lot, especially when you're just starting out! To upgrade to 35 slots it's a whopping 20,000 bucks, and then it's a staggering, ridiculous 50K more for 42 slots. What the heck kind of precious material is this backpack made of? Californium? Painite crystals? Endohedral Fullerenes? Something else that came up when I googled what the most expensive materials in the world are?

And while you keep you toiling away to fund your crippling backpack addiction, storage chests in these games are also a joke. I'll bring up Valheim again because its basic chest also sucks, but they only take 10 wood to craft so you can build a ton of them. In Dreamlight, crafting a single chest needs 25 softwood and 25 stone. That's a lot of walking around trying to find sticks and smashing up boulders. All that for a box that fits almost nothing? I'm already annoyed and I've only just started writing this.

They give me quests before I'm anywhere near capable of completing them

(Image credit: Pathea Games)

I still remember the starting quests in My Time at Portia. 1: Make a hatchet out of wood and stone. Easy. 2: Craft a pickaxe out of wood and stone. No problem! 3: Build an entire bridge out of copper pipe and hardwood planks, which needs copper ore, a grinder workbench, a woodcutting station, copper blades, stone bricks, a furnace…

Wait, what? How did we go from slapping together sticks and rocks to constructing a fully functioning industrial bridge factory between step two and three? You've got to ease me into these larger projects, not drop them onto my head like a piano. I'm barely a farmer, let alone a civil engineer.

Sweet, adorable farm sim Coral Island gave me a quest to grow 50 bronze-quality vegetables and 25 bronze-quality fruits. This was so early in the game I had maybe a dozen farming spots on my field, and zero ability to grow anything but basic no-quality crops. Months of in-game time later and I've only managed to grow seven bronze veggies. This quest will take me years and it's hanging around my neck like an anchor with the word 'failure' etched into it.

There's always some form of endless busywork

(Image credit: Gameloft)

I don't always mind repetitive tasks—I'm a survival game fan, after all, and I can spend ages hitting rocks with a pick and knocking trees down with an axe. But there's always a solid goal at the end of those chores, something I want to build with all those dead trees and busted rocks. 

Come on, man, you live like this?

Stepping into Dreamlight Valley's bright and colorful world for the first time, I was presented with acres of ugly purple vines called night thorns growing out of nearly every inch of the ground. My job was to pull them out. All of them. One by one. I'm given a reward, slowly, in the form of dream shards, but getting a reward isn't quite the same as doing a task because you have a clear goal at the end of it.

And no sooner had I managed to clear an entire zone of the ugly vines by clicking each one with my mouse and watching my character bend over to pull it out, then I unlock some new zone and also find it utterly choked by night thorns. I'd walk into some character's house, like Mickey Mouse's, and there's more. In his house! Come on, man, you live like this? And then even later I discover that even after I've picked them, they eventually grow back. Can't I take WALL-E to my crafting bench, disassemble him, and turn him into a lawnmower so I don't have to do this all myself?

I spend ages crafting something, and it sucks

I'll be honest, this was the original headline of this article:

(Image credit: Stairway Games)

Yes, I was a bit hot under the collar. This was Coral Island again, and as much as I hate to pick on such a sweet and good-natured game, this is emblematic of a lot of farming life sims. I quickly get tired of watering plants on my farm one by one, so I start looking around for either an upgraded watering can that will allow me to water multiple slots at once. Or even better, a way to never have to manually water the ground again.

It's pretty much all spelled in the headline above, but I chopped down a lot of trees to collect a bunch of stuff to give to a nature goddess, who gave me the blueprints for a recycling machine. (And it's a bit ironic I had to do so much destruction to the world to please a nature-loving deity.) This would allow me to build a sprinkler (after collecting and processing a ton of garbage) so I wouldn't have to water my plants by hand.

(Image credit: Stairway Games)

And the range of this sprinkler I'd spent so much time gathering and crafting? It was exactly one square. So only plants placed within a square of the sprinkler would get watered, which is only eight plants total, max. That saves me a bit of time, but not as much time as it took me to gather up all the crap I needed to build the sprinkler in the first place. Rage quit.

Oof. I feel tense and angry just having written this. I guess it's clear, no matter how many times I try, that I'm just not cut out for the gentle, peaceful, relaxing farming life. It's just too stressful. Back to Valheim I go.

Christopher Livingston
Staff Writer

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.