Hardies

The first time I heard about seasonal affective disorder, I thought it was a joke. I mean, just look at that acronym: SAD? Come on. But now I’m singing a different tune, and it ain’t Ren & Stimpy’s “Happy Happy Joy Joy.”

First off, the disorder is recognized by the National Institute of Mental Health and is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Who am I to question the experts?

Second, I’ve started wondering if I am among the afflicted. I’ve spent most of my life managing depression, but I thought it was the regular, run-of-the-mill variety. I don’t keep track of my peaks and troughs, but it seems like things get worse in winter.

If you’re also a member of the depression club (woo), you know there are proven ways to supplement your meds: petting cute critters, taking a hike, soaking up sun. Some of those things are harder to do when the days are short.

That probably explains why I’m so horny for spring. I’m not the only one, judging by Tuesday’s column. I’m ready to run around outdoors and play in the dirt, and I hope CU students are taking advantage of this week’s spring break to do just that. Alas, a full-time job has its limitations.

To sustain my sanity between weekends, I rely on digital doses of fun in the sun. My friend Chutney, who is a gardening fiend and just as hyped for spring as I am, had the perfect prescription: “My Time at Portia.”

Released late January, this game has the farming, social-simulation and adventure elements you find in “Rune Factory” or “Stardew Valley,” but with fancier graphics. It’s the kind of game that hits all my escapist fantasies by letting me relax, explore and live without debt.

I’ve been spending my nights running around Portia collecting cow pies so I can toss them in a blender to create fertilizer for my crops. It’s the same blender my character uses to whip up a batch of apple juice as gifts for the townsfolk. One of those folks gave me baby cows as a thank-you gift for helping him fix a stable. I hauled those heifers around in my pockets for a week before I was able to build a barn to house them. Gotta love video game logic.

Besides the bovine buffoonery, Portia offers an intriguing post-apocalyptic world full of ancient experimental monsters run amok. The town is home to forward-thinking tech enthusiasts as well as missionaries who preach against using weapons and other dangerous relics from the so-called Age of Corruption. There are stray pets you can adopt, strapping lads and lasses to date, and even a sentient android you can befriend.

Back in the real world, a handful of heroic crocuses are adding a splash of color to my front yard. Soon, it’ll be time to pull weeds, plant seeds and synthesize that mood-boosting vitamin D. Until then, I’ll get my kicks growing crops in Portia.

Read more Hardies: coloradodaily.com/columnists. Stalk her: twitter.com/deannahardies

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