Take a Walk on the Mild Side: Chucklefish studio builds reputation for peaceful pastimes

By Luke Mattingly

When some think of video games, they think of guns, blood, steel and primitive, primal, violence; however, this is actually a misguided view.

While it is true that many large developers put emphasis on often brutal realism and graphics, one independent development studio in particular provides a fresh take on gaming and on societal values as a whole.

Chucklefish is a small studio, supporting a crew of 16 people, ranging from artists and designers to programmers and producers. With their individual skills, this vastly different team comes together, and works in unison, making extremely unique games.

Though combat is a feature in some, the main theme of building and growth is prevalent in almost all of their games, especially their more popular ones. These games can even be peaceful and relaxing.

Their games use a fairly uncommon art style in modern gaming, pixel art, yet the shading and texture of the games feels natural and almost elegant. This style is reminiscent of the mid ’80s graphical format, yet it’s clear that they’ve used modern technology because of the attention to detail Chucklefish includes in their art.

One of these games is “Starbound,” a game that is unique because of it’s options. As Chucklefish describes it, “There’s no wrong way to play.” Though initially you start as a creature, lost in space with a damaged ship, once you reach a randomly generated planet, your fate is up to you.

You can build giant castles, underwater bases or even barely-functional shacks if building isn’t your thing. Each planet has fairly unique indigenous species that can either be vicious or peaceful depending on their habits.

Though arguably most creatures fit what they look like, (bear-like creatures being aggressive, bird-like ones being more passive) the procedural generation is random, and it can be pretty funny when the creepy skull dragons nod along peacefully and the cute purple pandas charge viciously forth to protect their territories.

With over 57,000 reviews, and still a 9/10, many wonder why the game is so enjoyable, but there are truly many paths. “I’m trying to find all the good ores in the game,” said Avery Anderson, a junior who’s put 200 hours into the game.

One of their other popular games truly captures this peaceful, calming idea, and certainly centers around improving. “Stardew Valley” is a game that is an interesting twist on the rpg genre.

Though the options in “Stardew Valley” are more limited, there are still many ways to play the game.

As the goal is gaining money and preserving the beauteous nature of whatever you choose to name the town, you have the option of farming, fishing, foraging and even delving into dungeons. Most choose a combination of the options, but all the methods feel satisfying and rewarding.

You can grow different crops depending on the season, and interact with the well fleshed out (albeit small) town and the fun, interesting characters that live in it.

After accumulating money, you can buy more sophisticated tools and equipment and start to help fund the rebuilding of the town. The more you rebuild the town, the more power it has, and the more it can rid itself of the harmful companies hurting the environment.

As your skills and wallet improve, so does your social standing and quality of life. From getting a larger home, to owning a dog, making friends and even marriage, “Stardew Valley” offers a truly unique experience

“I like going in from my tedious life into a calming environment where I can farm and explore,” said Alex Sulentic, another junior with around 100 hours into the game.

With the unique viewpoint that Chucklefish brings to the gaming industry, there is no question that their games are very popular, often receiving critic acclamation and winning awards.

Recently, they even announced a new game, called “Siege and the Sandbox,” prompting fans all over the world to wait with baited breath.

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