Small Goals

Like getting out of bed.

I know I’m in a funk. That makes the funk even funkier. I have a pretty good idea why I’m in a funk. Kids and wife are back in school and it took all of a day for issues to pop up. Learning curve, and we need to adjust – fine. Work is in full transform mode, trying to take advantage of the work from home model to finally implement some much needed changes. Then there are some friends who are going through health issues – seems I can’t go 2 weeks before some sort of major health event going on. Normally I can box these items up and manage them. Those boxes are overfull, and my normal coping mechanisms are lacking.

Writing helps. Talking too. The ideas in my head need to come out, and both are effective ways to do so. Another technique I’ve tried with some success is setting small goals. Things that, on a normal day, are benign and simple. They are simple things, and the act of doing them brings some amount of pleasure.

Getting in and out of bed by a given time is a simple thing. The morning wash. Ensuring I take the time to eat a healthy breakfast. Pausing from desk work and stretching. Taking a few minutes to clean up the kitchen counters. Prepping coffee for tomorrow. Normally I wouldn’t even think of them, I’d just do it. Now it’s conscious.

To move into gaming for a minute, Stardew Valley is pretty much based on small goals. Waking up and watering my garden. Petting my animals. Repairing a fence or clearing the field of weeds. Making mayonnaise or truffle oil. Collecting roe and pickling it. It sounds ridiculous, but the act of plucking a field of blueberries just feels fun.

The larger goals are there. I’ve fully upgraded the farm house, but I’ve yet to furnish it with all the casks/kegs I want to build a winery. I’m 1 harvest away from finishing up the community center packages. I’m at 5 hearts (of 10) with a few villagers, so lots more talking and presents to go. I’ve got all the rarecrows (meaning access to the casino too!). I have chests and chests of stuff that may have some use, but I’ve yet to figure it out. I’ve got about 200k in the bank. I know I need to reach floor 100 in the Skull Cavern, so I’ll need a ton of bombs and a few healing pots to get there. None of these items can be done in a single day, week, or even a month of game-time. It will take multiple play sessions to get there, and each one still feels good to get through.

Stardew Valley (like Minecraft and similar) is not a game about the end, or major cinematics, it’s entirely about the journey. It’s chocked full of tiny little things to do, mundane even. But they are all linked together in some way. It’s like a dance, where you know the basic steps, but it takes music and a partner to really see it shine. You don’t wait for the music to end, you enjoy it while it plays.

It’s sometimes hard to explain why gaming is such a therapeutic thing for me. Most people only think of FPS/gore when they think of games. But in truth, I don’t play games to see the end credits. I play games to experience small joys. The best games have those joys intertwine into an experience that just doesn’t let go. And even when you do see those end credits, you feel like you just took the most amazing of journeys. It’s a damn good feeling.

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