J.Essica would come for tea on Tuesdays and all she wanted to do was cut the grass. Every week we would click on the miniature disc of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker in my GameCube and she would prepare her sword. Because she was a few years younger than me, she couldn’t encounter a ChuChu or a Bokoblin without dying, so she would spend hours slicing up virtual greenery.
At the time, I found it a bit boring. Looking back, I understand that Jessica was simply following in the footsteps of our ancestors. Mowing grass has been a mainstay of video games for decades. From the 1983 Lawn Mower Simulation Hover over the top Since Minecraft in 2009, many games have invited us to switch between blades, and we can’t seem to stop ourselves from doing so. Why is mechanics so widespread?
“I think there’s something satisfying about cleaning up a messy thing and making it clean,” says Eric Barone, creator of the hit indie game Stardew Valley. Barone’s game was inspired by the 1996 farming simulator Harvest Moon, in which you can cut grass to make hay as well as pull weeds. As a child, Barone also loved cutting the patches of grass in 1993’s Secret of Mana – they glowed invitingly, swayed in the virtual wind, and made a satisfying whistling noise when sliced.
A year earlier, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past began rewarding grass trimmers for their efforts: players could find the in-game currency, rupees, when they hacked the ground. Grass for gold remained a mainstay of Zelda games until 2017’s Breath of the Wild, when the Hylians seemingly fixed the holes in their pockets and stopped dropping money everywhere. However, the last two Zelda games still encourage cutting the grass: bugs, rice bales, frogs and fairies often hide in the greenery.
Grass continued to grow in high-speed games throughout the millennium – in 1994’s Crusader of Centy (considered by some to be a Zelda ripoff), coins were also hidden in green pastures. The very first Animal Crossing game, released in 2001, made pulling weeds a key part of everyday play. Things perhaps peaked with 2016’s The Legend of Kusakari, a perhaps satirical homage to Zelda that promises “50 levels of weed-filled action”. I’ll try to let Jessica know.
Tunic 2022 game designer Andrew Shouldice notes that the guilty herb is such a “classic” of the game that it is now an expectation. “You are a potential hero, in the eternal default action-adventure biome of ‘grasslands,’ having just found Sword #1,” he says. “As a developer, you’re kind of obligated to make that grass cut and depositable!”
The debate that divides players is whether mowing grass is a chore or something to be enjoyed. “I like when you can use a tool or weapon to cut multiple pieces of grass at once, rather than one at a time,” says Barone – he was deliberately “generous” with the grass-cutting ability of a player in Stardew Valley. allowing them to slice multiple blades at once without using stamina. Barone didn’t like mowing grass in the 2013 survival game 7 Days to Die, because “you can only hit one at a time, and you often hit them accidentally with your big tool swings, which prevents your tool from touching the block you have reached.” you were actually aiming, while depleting your stamina as if you were doing so. Out of shame.
Jason Ort, on the other hand, is extremely pro-mowing the lawn – or at least he was in college. Now a 32-year-old IT administrator in New Jersey, Ort spent eight straight hours with his roommates cutting grass at Wind Waker when he was a student. “Because we were all a bunch of gigantic nerds, we did the math and found the patch of grass that coughed up the most rupees on average,” he says. He and his roommates sliced it up, collected their pennies, went into a cave, and came out on a patch of freshly grown grass. In rehearsal.
“After four hours, it’s funny. After six hours we feel like crazy. After eight hours, we had enough in-game currency to buy pretty much everything we needed,” says Ort.
But beyond being rewarded with resources, Ort thinks virtual grass cutting is “therapeutic,” just like his fiancée. “When I was a kid, I thought it was fun to swing my sword at everything I could,” he says, but now he finds it calming. The mechanic has also conditioned him to “look for secrets in places that seem quite simple and mundane” when playing other games.
Others clearly agree: entire lawn-mowing simulation games have sprung up, while gamers have sprung up. made their own lawn mowers in games that don’t provide them. I myself started to enjoy mowing grass because it gave me a feeling of autonomy: aside from Zelda, other GameCube games had limited environments and you couldn’t interact with many of the pixels around you . Cutting the grass in Wind Waker was immersive and liberating.
Perhaps Barone expresses it best. “I think we have a natural penchant for orderly things,” he says. “Cutting the grass and preparing an area for productive use appeals to our natural desire to bring order to chaos. »