Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Harvest Moon

Much of the eco-crowd likes to trash video games. Occasionally, I do agree. At their worst they can suck people's lives away. But I would like to admit that video games were one of the reasons I got into farming. Harvest Moon, a series of Japanese video games centered on farming, are my favorite video games. I started playing them when the first one came out for the original game boy in America and I still play them, primarily while traveling since otherwise I don't have much free time.

A locavore's dream, the Harvest Moon games are focused on small-scale farming and tight-knit local communities. You get rewards for talking with your neighbors and treating your cows well. Contrast that with popular games like Grand Theft Auto where you get points for running over people and slapping around prostitutes.

While there are lots and lots of differences between Harvest Moon and real farming, I did learn some key things:
1. Repetitive work is not always bad. In fact, it can be quite comforting. Planting seedlings, hoeing, and transplanting leeks....fantastic stress relief.
2. Have picnics on your farm. It connects people to where their food comes from and helps build community ties.
3. If you have a small farm, diversify! It's a lot easier to stay afloat if you rely on multiple sources of income.
4. Don't forget about foraging. In the game, wild foods can be a source of income and sustenance.
5. Plant your crops in a way that makes later chores like weeding less taxing.

However, Harvest Moon is not a how-to-farm game. It's very much simplified. There is no starting seeds inside, nor insect pests, and soil is woefully ignored. I want the next games to reward good crop rotation or something.

1 comment:

Anna said...

Do you know if Harvest Moon is available in a Mac format?

My husband and I went back and forth on computer and video games for our 9yo old son, when he started lobbying for them a year or two ago. Like my mother had experienced with me and Barbie's when I was a girl, he wanted to play at the "other" houses all the time because of the games we didn't have. We have a learned we need to make it very clear to a couple of other parents he is not to play "Teen" rated games (what are they thinking???) but luckily that situation is still quite limited.

Pro or con, these games are part of the "cultural currency" now, and unless a kid grows up in an isolated fringe community that has little exposure to electronic media of any kind, most kids need to learn how to manage that "currency" because it is out there (no different than teaching about alcohol, sex, drugs, easy credit, etc.). So we do have a few non-violent games in our house, with definite stipulations about playing times and fulfilling other responsibilities first. First and foremost, limits on the games are important, and they should not be used as "babysitters", which too many parents passively allow to happen.

The one my son likes the best is Sim City, which my husband also plays. They often confer with each other on their cities, so while it isn't a competitive game in the usual sense, there can be cooperation (cities can be linked so that the Sim people can move freely between the cities of different players. My son is learning a lot about building and maintaining urban and suburban areas within budget restraints, what creates liveable and undesireable areas for people, and how to manage revenue and expenses. I find aspects of the Sim City game coming up in other conversations with him, about density of housing, his observations on developments that are going up near our community, impacts of local projects that we pass by, etc.

The neighbor kids that he plays with frequently, who generally like games and toys that "blow things up" also like this game and after playing it at our house, got it for their computer, though they tend to play it differently than my son does. But my son is learning by observing what happens in the different cities they build, too.