When I left my home in Kyiv, “Stardew Valley” was a lifesaver

It is now mid-March. I’m sitting in the basement of a country house near Kyiv. Not my house. I haven’t been home for three weeks now, maybe more. The calendar has ceased to be of great importance here.

Until a few weeks ago, I was living the average life of the so-called creative class. My content office has worked on projects for clients. I mismanaged my time and complained about not having time to enjoy life. Artificial problems, as usual. In one morning, everything changed. It was followed by several nights in the basement of a nearby building. Hastily picked up clothes. Move from place to place. And here I am.

Now my day is different. All these days – the routine of the average Ukrainian who is not engaged in combat, volunteering or territorial defense – looks alike. Those of us who have managed to get a little further from the epicenters of the bombings have become dangerously addicted to our phones.

Like hundreds of thousands of people in my country, I now have to clap my hands to hang up the phone and stop reading Twitter feeds and Telegram channels. My iPhone screen time has increased by several hundred percent over the past few weeks. Many of us are no longer shocked by videos with corpses of Russian soldiers (as opposed to their airstrikes on maternity wards). Every minute, someone searches Twitter and Instagram Stories for those who can help get loved ones out of the bombed-out city. Or volunteers who can escort humanitarian cargo across the border.

In my old life, I loved video games. I have always loved their ability to reinvent my life routine. In reality is shattered, Jane McGonigal has written that games are distinguished from life by, among other things, the natural motivation to do something well. A well-designed game gives you the feeling that your efforts are not in vain. I don’t have to force myself to play the game, unlike, say, writing this text. The desire to play is present by itself.

Whether wandering in deep space Elite Dangerous or treasure hunt in Unexplored, games can inspire in their own way. When I left home, I tried not to take many things with me. But at the last moment, I threw the Nintendo Switch into my travel backpack anyway. I know I know. This is madness. I have several pairs of socks and boxers with me, spare pants, medicine, documents, and… a game console on which I collect butterflies animal crossing.

Yesterday I sent my wife, her mother and our dog abroad. In recent weeks, I have rarely seen her without a phone in her hands. Even at night, his routine consisted of endless doomscrolling. The only thing that managed to distract her from the doomscrolling was Stardew Valley, in which you plant potatoes in a village with surprisingly kind neighbors. But, unfortunately, it only worked for about 40 minutes.

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