How Harvest Moon Taught me how to get Through College

One of the first games I got really good at was a game called Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town. It's a farming simulator in which you are required to manage the daily operations of a farm as one singular man. Your daily duties, depending on the season, range from courting a bride, caring for your child, befriending town folk, milking cows, shearing sheep, watering crops, collecting eggs, feeding the animals, grooming animals, training your dog, riding your horse, mining for ore, foraging in the mountain, chopping wood, breaking stones, and cooking. All in a game where the clock is set to move ten minutes in-game for every second real time. 

When you first start out it's impossible to do everything. In addition to the harsh time constraints you also have very little stamina and not nearly enough space in your backpack for all of your tools and crops. Most of the starting days in Friends of Mineral Town are spent running from the outgoing shipping container and your fields. And that pattern is hard to get out of without proper planning.

 It also takes forever to walk anywhere!

It also takes forever to walk anywhere!

I was about about eight or nine at the time this game came out so I, of course, had no sort of plan about how  I was going to spend my day. And so my first in-game year was rough. I had a couple of chickens, hadn't grown a lot of crops, and I was constantly scrambling to get things done. I'm pretty surprised to say I didn't put the game down despite my troubles. I somewhat miraculously decided I would admit to my best friend, who was also playing the game, that I had no idea what I was doing. His immediate response was to ask me if I was planning my my days and goals. I absolutely was not. But then I started.

 I bought a beautiful cow friend

I bought a beautiful cow friend

Harvest Moon gave me a space to fuck up. When I tried to fit in too much into one day my character would faint. If I did too little I wouldn't make money and, even more pressing, my animals might die. But either way I'd still be able to pick up from where I left off without an immense penalty. When I did finally find a rhythm I was well rewarded, constantly, by getting better tools, winning contests, having a family, and being able to expand my house and barn. It was a rewarding enough formula that Harvest Moon became one of my favorite series. Over the years I've spent, no joke, hundreds of hours playing these games, where the primary objective is to juggle having way too much to do. In this way I am indebted to Harvest Moon for teaching me proper time management, because it definitively wasn't doing much to be talked at by others about how to manage my time. It was something I came to myself and because of that, I was able to better manage the stress of a busy schedule because I had already done it hundreds of times. And like any other skill, time management comes with practice and the proper support. The result was, in college I was able to get things done when they needed to be done and still balance my extracurricular activities. Something, I noticed, many people struggled with.

 My very first pixel family

My very first pixel family

Often when we send folks off to college, they've never had to deal with having so much to do and having it be on them, alone, to manage it all. It's a hard skill to teach without overburdening them as teenagers, which comes with its own set of problems. And in real life when you mismanage time the results are often very harmful. A bad term can fuck up a lot. So,  obviously, having kids in college learn on the fly can be harmful can fuck their lives up too. So I consider it a great blessing that I was able to have so much practice before it really mattered. Video games are, first and foremost, a place for exploration and to test things without it mattering very much. And in this case fucking around taught me a valued life skill. Video games often teach unexpected skills and it's not a bad thing to let kids experiment with them.

*side note: Issues with time management come from many places not just a lack of practice. And I am not suggesting that playing fucking Harvest Moon will solve all time management issues. It's just one more tool.