Why Play… ‘Stardew Valley’

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Welcome to Stardew Valley, a quiet little town isolated from the rest of the world. When your grandfather passes away and leaves you his farm in his will, you pack your bags and begin a new life away from the hubbub of the commercial world to learn what it takes to become a farmer.

With the option to create your own items out of the resources you have collected, Stardew Valley is more than an homage to Harvest Moon.  It takes what made Harvest Moon such a success and adds a factor that minecraft players would find familiar. Additionally, the game also incorporates a level up system for each different skill the player may use on and around their farm such as farming, foraging and fishing. With each level the player will find using those skills easier to use and ultimately will discover that a good farmer uses each and every one of these skills in order to maximise their daily success.

However, it isn’t the game mechanics that make the game such fun to play but the relaxation that the game provides. This quaint little town that holds its own secrets, villagers with their own unique personalities and backstories and the bright 8bit pixels all create a tranquil charm to get immersed in. Most importantly, the game’s music also ties in a warm calming atmosphere that changes with each passing season.

Despite the soothing tone though lies a darker realism to the game. As you play through your first year as a farmer and start making friends with your neighbours, you realise things are not at happy as they seem. Through a number of cut scenes brought about by filling up villager’s friend meter, the game begins to explore a number of adult themes such as alcoholism, depression and PTSD.

Moreover, Stardew Valley also holds a negative view of the free market seen between Pierre’s general Store and the JoJa Mart; the freedom to choose where to shop has a tendency for major corporations, with the money to sell items cheaper, to end up monopolising the market and forcing their competitors to go out of business. Yet, the player does have the option to ignore the evidently exploitative nature of JoJa Corp and have a different experience to the game by buying a membership card from the Hypermarket.

The success of Stardew Valley is in the fact that it doesn’t force the player to do any specific job they don’t want to. Instead it allows us to play the game as we like. Whether it be to get rich, make friends or discover the secrets of the valley, the player will find themselves immersed in a small town and its community that one can’t help but wish existed in order to get away from our hectic lives. Stardew Valley is proof that sometimes the simplest things in life can turn out to be the best.

Why Watch… ‘Arrow’

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Set as playboy millionaire Oliver Queen is rescued from an island he had been shipwrecked on for 5 years, the series centres around his return to Starling City. Oliver is intent on fulfilling a promise he made to his father before his death when he gets home and, using the survival skills he gained while on the island, dresses as a hooded archer who targets those that have corrupted his city. Due to his unlawful exploits he becomes known as the Vigilante and must lie to all those around him including his mother, sister, best friend and love interest causing a rift between them all for being dishonest with them. Nonetheless, Queen does gain help from his bodyguard John Diggle and an IT expert Felicity Smoak who both see the importance of what he does and not only helps with Queen’s mission to right the wrongs of his father but also help Oliver escape the isolation he became accustomed to on the island.

The series constantly moves between the past and present with the events that occurred during those 5 years on the island and Oliver’s vigilante activities in Starling City. During the scenes set on the island it becomes evident that Oliver’s account as to what happened there is not as true as he wants people to believe and as the series progresses more of the truth is revealed to the audience. Additionally, the programme also introduces other characters from the DC universe such as Deathstroke, Deadshot and Black Canary. Not to mention introduces Barry Allen in season two, creating the new The Flash series thus sharing the same television universe.

A city owned by the wealthy and a devious plan that connects the Queen family right in the centre of it. Packed with lies and family secrets, Arrow constantly refreshes its narrative by adding more to Oliver Queen’s past. This is cleverly made possible through the use of his decision to keep his past a secret; perhaps due to a sense of trauma he suffered there. However, with his past refusing to remain just that, Arrow will leave you wanting to know more.

Feeling as empty as my Closet: ‘Outing’ Post-Coming out Depression

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One subject that exists in the shadows of publicised LGBT issues is post-coming out depression. Perhaps, just like any other form of depression, it is thought that, by simply accepting its existence tempts the Gods to inflict you with it like a curse. However, the truth is with nearly a fifth of adults in the UK suffering from some form of anxiety or depression, it is a common mental illness that can be helped if we stop the stigma that is put upon it. If we did, the depression some feel after coming out might be better known.

It is always suggested by everyone that by coming out to your friends, family and colleagues you will feel a huge weight lifted off your shoulders and I do not disagree with that but nobody mentions how you might also feel after. Coming out is a big change as well as an important writ of passage so it would be glib to suggest people won’t feel a little odd afterwards and this ‘oddness’ might cause them to become depressed. I for one naively believed that by coming out, my life would alter completely; I believed that I would instantly find a man with a body that would make Adonis jealous, I’d automatically be more funny, witty and confident in myself and I would be hosting wild soirees surrounded by other immediate gay and lesbian friends. Obviously this was not the case.

Despite the amazing support I received from everyone I told, I felt like my life was lacking something. Nothing had drastically changed and life continued the way it always had other than the sense of freedom I had gained from escaping the closet door. Yet, it was this freedom that had made me depressed. By being honest about my sexuality I had opened up the flood gates into a much more authentic yet vulnerable world that felt too vast compared to the safe bubble I had now physically popped with three words; ‘I like guys’. Since my expectations of coming out had been too high I started to see myself as a failure.  I entered a rather distressing state which led me to a place I would not wish upon anyone. I could not understand why, after coming out, I was still single. I had significantly altered my life yet still felt alone. Luckily, I found help before it was too late but it is saddening to know that others have taken their own lives because of the same problem.

I cannot express how important it is to know that although coming out is a major stepping stone to a better future for homosexuals and bisexuals; it is not an automatic change. Although not everyone will suffer from post-coming out depression, there is a small chance that someone will. Since coming out is such a big deal, after it has happened, there is a void where so much worry and stress had been and it can be filled with a sense of nothingness. You are not alone, let things come at their own time and the emptiness of closet with you outside it will fill once more with a sense of belonging and happiness as you adapt to your new surroundings as an openly gay man or woman. It might not lead to a new you but an honest you.