I’ve been playing Harvest Moon: It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s a bizarre game for Gamecube that is something like Animal Crossing: The Farm Simulator.
Running a farm requires lots of tedious, repetitive work. Watering crops twice a day, one tiny square at a time. Nuzzling your cow and talking to her so she knows you care. Milking the cow in the morning, then again in the afternoon. Tending to the chickens and picking up their eggs and making sure they have feed.
The first season I planted 10 tomato seeds. The hoeing and planting was tedious, but it was the watering that got to me. Rather than being able to hold down a button and water things quickly, you have to carefully position yourself and water each plant individually. This can become mind-numbingly boring, very quickly, and took up most of my days.
I tended to my plants and grew them, but it took a serious toll on my psyche. All I really wanted to do was run around and play with my dog, but he didn’t do much other than come to me when I called him. And my sheep (named Schleep) seemed to like me more, anyway, so I spent a lot of time brushing her.
The prospect of dealing with more planting and watering seemed odious to me, but seeds are a lot cheaper than animals.
I was just about ready to drop out of the farming world entirely when Takakura, my assistant, told me that we had a new animal. Which was strange, since I hadn’t ordered one and none of the animals were pregnant.
He explained that he had ordered a horse for me, because I would really need one. I named the horse Epona. It made the previously slow and boring task of running around the town and farm a joy. And I took Epona down to the beach, and trotted where the sea met the land and the sound of horse and ocean together made it seem like maybe things would be ok, even if I would never be a great farmer.
After reading the manual it was apparent that I had to marry one of three girls in the town. “SOUL MATE QUEST. One is shy and traditional, another is looking for a man and the third one is intelligent and anything but predictable. Choosing the best wife depends on your personality, so pick the one you like the most– before someone makes the choice for you!”
I simply don’t have the temperament right now to deal with a soul mate quest, and besides, I like the cute archaeologist girl in glasses best, but she’s not an option.
There are other people living in the town you can talk to, so I did that. You can befriend them by giving them gifts, because Harvest Moon knows that that’s probably the only way I could ever make friends. (You can tell they are your friend because their heads turn when you walk by.)
One of the people I became friends with was Ruby. She runs the inn in town along with her husband. After showering her with enough gifts of egg, tomato, and flowers, I walked into the inn’s kitchen one day. “Do you cook?” she asked me. I told her yes. “Then here, have something good!” She gave me a jar of spice. “Go home and cook something good!” she told me.
But it didn’t seem like much of a gift, since after the annoyances of growing tomatoes I had given up on farming. So I didn’t have anything to actually cook it with. “Thanks a lot, Ruby!” as I saw I had nothing to combine the spice with. But strangely enough, cooking just Ruby Spice led to… another Ruby Spice. It had duplicated. And this could be done again and again.
It was as if I had found a flaw in the Matrix, if the Matrix was a tiny game with cows.
The traveling salesman Van was willing to buy the duplicate Ruby Spices for 100 gold each, a huge sum of money in comparison to the 35 gold for my tomatoes that took days and days of tedious watering.
I realized I had freed myself from the difficulties of actually doing boring tasks to make money in the game if only I duplicated Ruby Spice when I needed it.
I wished I could tell old Takakura to retire, because he seems like he should, because I was going to be ok now.
I decided to buy some more cows, because I figured every virtual cow I bought with my new found infinite virtual wealth was one virtual cow that would not be slaughtered into virtual hamburger. And I like taking care of cows.
And I bought a pond, even though it didn’t seem to serve any purpose, because I thought the cows might like it. It says “Ducks can swim here” when I look at the pond, so maybe one day there will be ducks. Which will be happy, because there will be ducks, but also sad because I’ll remember that ducks mate for life.
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