Let me be the first to admit that I am a complete nerd when it comes to playing simulators. One of my very earliest memories was going to Walmart with my grandpa and buying a trucking simulator called 18 Wheels of Steel: Pedal to the Metal. This was probably the first video game that I ever bought with my own money. I was immediately hooked and eight-year-old me spent plenty of hours exploring the beauty of the United States as could only have been seen through a blocky early 2000s videogame. There was just something about the idea that I could boot up the computer and within minutes be able to live a life completely unlike my own that really stimulated my imagination.
My love for these type of simulator games only grew when one of my sisters bought Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life for our Gamecube. For those unfamiliar with the series, Harvest Moon games all revolve around farming and making friends with the other people living within your virtual town. These games typically have a loose overarching story to them, but mostly rely on the player’s own initiative and decisions to guide the story. While these games are not as simulator-heavy as some other farming games and usually have some type of fantasy component to them, they filled me with the same type of childlike wonder that my trucking game did. Thus began a two decade long, and still ongoing, love affair that I have for farming simulators.
Much of my reason for liking these videogames today still has to do with their uncanny ability to take me to not too distant lands, although now instead of whisking me away from the occasional boredom that comes with being a kid, they whisk me away from the occasional stress of adulthood. I think the reason that these games do such a good job of being relaxing is that they are just similar enough to everyday life to be immersive without asking the player to suspend their disbelief. Instead of transporting you to a distant planet or a different time, these games (for the most part) put you in a setting that is just familiar enough that you can recognize things (partly because they are grounded in reality) but different enough to be entertaining.
Because some of these games are grounded in reality and revolve around learnable skills, they can inspire the player to try some of the tasks that they have practiced in the videogame. While I am not saying that someone is going to learn how to be a farmer after 200 hours of playing Stardew Valley or plowing a field in Farming Simulator 2022, they have personally inspired me to try some of the things that I have done in these games. It is with this inspiration in mind that I have created an accompanying booklist for this blog post for anyone who is interested in taking their love for virtual farming, fishing, woodworking, foraging, and rock collecting into real life. Along with this, I have handpicked some books from the booklist that I think do a great job of teaching the real life skill behind the various tasks that one might encounter while playing farming videogames.
Great if you like: Crafting stuff from branches and wood in Animal Crossing
This is a great little book if you want to make something out of everyday items that you might find in your yard or at a park. Most of the projects in this book require very little knowledge of woodworking in order to make them. While some of the projects might be a little tackier than others, there are a lot of fun ideas for small craft projects. I particularly like the section that covers creating things from scrap lumber and pallet boards. Along with these projects, there is some helpful information on how to safely and legally gather wood outdoors.
Great if you like: Making things out of wood in Terraria, The Sims 4, and Animal Crossing
This is probably the most in-depth woodworking book on this list due to the care that the authors have taken in explaining the artistry involved in green woodworking, as well as teaching the skills necessary to carryout projects involving green wood. If you’re like me (prior to reading this book) and have no clue what green woodworking is, it is woodworking that involves unseasoned wood. This differs from regular woodworking in that most regular woodworking involves dry seasoned wood. As a result, green wood is typically softer and more malleable, making it perfect to work on with non-powered hand tools. This book will explain how to use these hand tools to make a variety of different objects, such as bowls and spoons, as well as how to make your own tools. This book goes so far as to even teach you how to make your own pole lathe (and how to use it to make beautiful Captain Chairs).
Projects from the Minimalist Woodworker
Great if you like: Making things out of wood in Terraria and The Sims 4
This book is relatively similar to the book Woodcraft, but rather than using green wood, these projects use store bought lumber. But don’t let that deter you! These projects still involve using only hand tools, which, while more difficult, I think is really cool. I think there is something romantic about using tools that you have created to create something else, an idea that this book captures quite well by teaching the reader how to make a violin knife and a wooden plane that can both be used in other projects within the book.
The Foraged Home
Great if you like: Doing Interior design in The Sims and Animal Crossing
Unlike some of the other books referenced in this blog, this book isn’t necessary a how-to. While there is plenty of helpful information in this book, it is more of an interior design lookbook than a comprehensive guide. Perhaps, however, in a nontraditional way this book could be considered a how-to as the photos demonstrate and inspire the reader to implement various found items into their living space. One thing that might help inspire the reader is the way that the book is broken down into various design styles (coastal, rural, forest, and urban). Breaking the design styles down in such a way helps the reader to better match the aesthetic vibe they are looking to implement in their own space.
The Illustrated Guide to Rocks and Minerals
Great if you like: Mining in Stardew Valley and hunting for rocks in The Sims 4
This one is definitely more dense than the other entries in this post, and for good reason: there are a ton of rocks and minerals in the world! If one of your favorite things to do in Stardew Valley and The Sims is hunting down the collectibles, this book is for you. While there is ton of interesting information in this book about the physical geography of our planet, the main draw to this book is the nearly 200-pages dedicated to explaining how to identify and find interesting rocks and minerals. Along with these explanations, there are over 800 different full-color photos and illustrations of the rocks and minerals within this book, perfect for those trying to identify interesting rocks that they have found.
Collecting Rocks, Gems, and Minerals
Great if you like: Mining in My Time at Portia and exploring caves in Minecraft and Terraria
This book is similar to The Illustrated Guide to Rocks and Minerals, but written with the rock, gem, and mineral seller in mind rather than a collector. As such, the book contains helpful information for anyone interested in the lapidary uses of rocks, gems, and minerals, as well as for those who are interested in the price of the items that they have. One aspect of this book that I think is interesting is the examples that are used for rocks, gems, and minerals with lapidary uses. For the items that have lapidary uses, the book includes beautiful examples such as statuettes, rings, and sculptures.
Great if you like: Decorating your house in Animal Crossing with plants
While a backyard farm and urban chicken keeping is fun, I also understand that some people rent and aren’t able to do some of the farming stuff mentioned in other books listed here. For that reason, I wanted to include a handful of books about succulents. Even if you’re able to make a sprawling garden in your backyard, succulents are a great way to bring a little green (or black, purple, pink, etc.) indoors, and this book makes it so easy. This book examines 50 of the easiest succulents for beginners and breaks down what each plant’s special feature, care instructions, things to look out for, and arrangement tips are. Along with this, the book contains helpful information on how to propagate new succulents and how to best arrange your succulent planters so that they are the most aesthetically pleasing.
With popular videogames such as Stardew Valley, Farming Simulator 2022, My Time at Portia, Animal Crossing, and The Sims all including aspects of farming, forestry, fishing, and foraging, I found it a good idea to compile a list of books about these topics. It is my hope that this list inspires people who enjoy mushroom hunting in Animal Crossing or tending to crops in Stardew Valley (or everything in between) to take their virtual passions and turn them into real-life hobbies.