It's weird how sometimes the right media will pop into your hands at the right moment. Until I can manage to concentrate and read again - which will hopefully happen by my flight tomorrow - videogames are helping keep my mind out of the dark. And randomly Stardew Valley (Steam link) has been helpful for that.
If you liked Animal Crossing or Harvest Moon, you'll apparently have a good idea of what this game is - I've never played either. But every review begins with that comparison so I'm tossing that out first. I was actually drawn to the game because I read about the developer creating it by himself - the art, the music, everything - over the course of 4 years. He refused to put it into early access on Steam and only released it when it was complete.
An interview with the developer where he talks about this, and a review:
I watched a little of someone playing it on youtube and figured it'd hit the mmo-love I have for wandering around looking at and gathering stuff - and it was under $15 so I hopped in. And I love that I can go all hyper farmer or just focus on getting syrup from the maple trees and go mining (and fighting monsters in the mine). Or do both. You can woo and marry npcs (and it doesn't matter what gender you or they are) - or just make friends with everyone. There are little stories here and there and conversations - nothing Bioware depth, but often up for interpretation that makes them different from many games I've played. (I'm purposely being vague because some people really hate spoilers.) And there's random weirdness, like the meteorites that fall on your farm sometimes (and are full of nice useful minerals). Or the wizard that's one of your neighbors. Or figuring out that you can grow a giant pumpkin. (Again, not spoiling some of the weirdness.)
What's funny is that I'm usually a graphics snob and have stayed away from pixely art in games like this. Mainly because back in ye olden days I had an Atari and then a long dry spell where I didn't have any other tech to play videogames on - so retro gaming graphics are something I don't long to revisit. But the content in this, and the ability to plan my gardens - it's somehow a nice and calming thing. (Also I have no fear of reading the wiki all the time if I have questions. Which has helped a lot at times.) And there are multiple areas I still haven't unlocked. It's been good to lose hours in here.
Extremely vague bookish thing: when it rains you'll every now and then see some worms wiggling in a small area on the ground. If you dig with your hoe you can usually find clay there, and sometimes other items. Well, it was somewhat surprising to find that sometimes library books would pop up. They then magically teleport themselves back into the library, and when you next visit you can read the contents. (I am such a sucker for reading books in games. These are extremely brief and nothing to gush over, just mildly fun.) I still haven't figured out how the worms have appropriated these missing library books - or alternately who's been burying them around town. The library also has a museum that you can donate artifacts to and help them rebuild their collection. (And get goodies for so many things donated.)
Meanwhile the dude running the library never has asked why the books have dirt in them. I mean, they must have some grime after being dug out of a hole full of worms, right?
Later: It occurs to me that I should add - if you get immersed and lose time in simulation type games like this you should definitely keep an eye on your clock. It's also kind of addictive. On the plus side it's easily paused, there are no microtransactions, and there's no way you have to play or things you're forced to do.