Games about staying home

I grew up playing the Pokemon series of games, and the formula for each is predictable. They are coming-of-age stories where a young boy or girl leaves home on their own, travels the land, and has adventures. It's a common structure for video games and really all fiction. But my kids don't like it.

Pokemon Red/Blue was released in 1998 when I was 17 years old, and I first tried to interest Natalie in Pokemon X/Y when she was 5 or 6. She kind of enjoyed exploring, battling, and collecting pocket monsters, but most of all she wanted to go back to the beginning of the game, to her home. It's counter to the design of the game and there's no in-game reason for you to make this trip back: your mother barely acknowledges your presence. But obviously the desire to return had nothing to do with game mechanics and everything to do with how she felt.

Recently I bought a game called Stardew Valley and the kids are fascinated to watch me play it. As much as I've tried to interest them in other games in the past, this one has grabbed their attention so much that they actually ask me to play it, and watch intently while I do. It seems most of the reason for its appeal is that Stardew Valley is all about living a quiet life on a farm, raising livestock, making friends... not your typical action-packed video game nonsense.

It got me to thinking about other games I love that are basically about staying at home and not doing anything heroic. My good friend Laurie introduced me to Harvest Moon (the series Stardew Valley is based on), and I played a lot of Animal Crossing on the GameCube my senior year of college. I play my share of violent AAA games but I'm sure glad these other games exist. Not to mention my tolerance for stress and frustration, and interest in pretending to shoot people, keeps waning the older I get. When I get tired of murdering bad guys I just need to spend some time in virtual nature and relax with my imaginary friends.