Jason (jcreed) wrote,

There's still a good deal of Stardew Valley going on in the apartment; 1.1 update beta came out, so K is on it.

It makes me think really hard about what 'realism' means in simulationy sorts of games, and I'd be interested if anyone wants to chime in on what any of what I'm going to say connects with the game-crit literature has already said in any interesting way. I assume it's said lots of things on the topic --- I'm largely naive of it and just talkin' out of my butt here.

The main comparisons I tend to keep thinking about are to minecraft, which I've played plenty, and dwarf fortress, of which I know a little second-hand. One thing about minecraft that is charmingly wonky is that if you want villagers to breed, obviously what you need to do is build doors with dirt on top of them --- because the game engine tries to achieve homeostasis between the population of a village, and the size of the village in terms of number of buildings. And clearly what a 'building' is a thing with a door and a ceiling, so the primal urges of villagers get riled up when the doors-with-minimum-viable-ceiling-lumps-to-villager ratio gets high enough.

This is not... "realistic". This is not how actual humans who live in villages --- which at some level of abstraction appears to be how we're meant to read these ambling rectangular cuboids --- behave. But it's a mechanism which interacts with a bunch of other game mechanisms that add up to a "realistically complex" or at least sufficiently complex, fun game.

Let's consider dwarf fortress then; the famous story I know about it is that the specific gravity of Sagauro wood, unlike other woods, couldn't be easily found online by the creators, so one of the fans of the game actually went and got some and measured it, and bam, ~430 kg/m^3.

So this is... "realistic" in a way that stardew valley is not, generally.

And yet stardew valley farming, and fishing, and shopping, and most of the mechanisms that don't traffic in explicitly fantasy elements do feel realistic in as much as I don't feel like I have to laugh at their absurdity when trying to explain them to someone, as I do pretty often with minecraft.

And somehow this basic level of plausibility smooths over even the existence of things that have no real-world counterpart at all: ancient seeds grow sensibly into ancient fruit, and void eggs turn, obviously, into void mayonnaise when you put them into the mayonnaise machine. As of the 1.1 update, at, least; thank god they fixed that obvious oversight.
Tags: games, stardew valley

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