The Growing Niche of Nonviolent Games


The video game “Stardew Valley” is going to be getting an update relatively soon that includes multiplayer, and adds a number of parts of the game, including a new winter festival.

The game has been ported to the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4, and Linux, will be ported to the Playstation Vita, and has sold 3.5 million copies. By all means, the game is a success.

However, there is a lesser known series that the game is heavily based on with only a fraction of the sales per game. Because of the popularity of “Stardew Valley,” people may know of the Japanese series “Harvest Moon,” which has been published under the name “Story of Seasons” since 2014, but they aren’t typically aware of it beyond just the name or a vague memory of playing a friend’s game in elementary school.

I could talk about how great it is for “Stardew Valley” to give this lesser-known title more attention, or that the “Story of Seasons” series has so much that “Stardew Valley” should improve upon (namely giving personalities to your children or making ranching more complex), but mostly, I want to draw attention to the fact that the popularity of “Stardew Valley” has shown a hidden wish in the West for a genre that is oft neglected in American titles.

American games are known for their action and violence—from Call of Duty to Assassin’s Creed, the household names of American video games tend to rely on violence to sell. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but it certainly seems different from Japanese games.

The core focus of “Stardew Valley” and the “Story of Seasons” franchise is simply to farm, have a family, and befriend members of the village. Other games with similar objectives, such as another Japanese series, “Animal Crossing”, hold the same appeal; “New Leaf”, the last non-spinoff in the franchise, sold 200,000 copies in America only a couple weeks into its release. It has since sold 11.6 million worldwide.

The “Animal Crossing” series revolves around living in a village and befriending the animal-like villagers while decorating your home with various pieces of furniture you can buy from local stores in the game. While there is an axe the player can wield to cut down trees, it only bounces off villagers.

Not only am I interested in the American sales of the next “Story of Seasons” game, but I am also highly interested in how this nonviolent, yet adult line of games will develop over time. One can only wonder how many more games will pop up alongside “Stardew Valley,” made by American indie developers with love for the Japanese games that have come before.