Fishing. It is at once painfully simple and infuriatingly difficult. I’ve always hated fishing. I remember my father watching bass fishing on television; it was soul-crushingly uninteresting. Few things are more dull than watching someone fish–perhaps the only watching poker is more asinine.
And yet, for millions of people, this is a leisure activity. It kinda just happens. I’ve written posts before about how I’ve come around to fishing. I genuinely enjoy it now. It’s become a wonderful way for me to clear my head, let my mind wander and just be.
My interest in fishing has become slightly more than casual. Unfortunately, I don’t have the means or opportunity to regularly go fishing, but recently I’ve discovered a PC game that sates my desire. Fishing Planet is a stunning simulation that’s visually realistic and habit forming. I’ve found playing this game allows me to get to a zen state akin to live fishing.
I find Fishing Planet just as frustrating and as rewarding as fishing IRL. To begin with, purchasing equipment in game assumes a knowledge of fishing gear coming into the game. This is not unreasonable. However, I don’t know the difference between kinds of lures or jigs, why or how their weight or color matter, or what poles go with what reels. I’ve wasted the currency I earned in game buying rods, reels, line, hooks, bobbers, lures, jigs, and bait that don’t work together. Even though every item has a little description in store, there is nothing letting me know what combinations work with each other or don’t.
At least, prior to arriving at a new location, there isn’t. Once you arrive to the lakes in New York or Colorado, you can go to the local shop and see the combos you needed to get the available fish (pike, trout, bass, or walleye). But given that a one day trip (you can stay at a location for multiple days as well) to either of those locales costs nearly $250, you can show up broke and unable to catch anything. This has repeatedly happened to me (due to making the wrong assumptions about what I would be able to do) leaving my only option to grind away in Missouri until I have the necessary currency to go elsewhere.
The game’s tension revolves around negotiating this learning curve. You are learning where in each locale to find fish as well as how to catch them while simultaneously learning how to deploy the various equipment. With no threat of some other player sneaking up behind you to shoot you in the head and steal your loot (developers, feel free to take this idea and go with it), this tension is what propels the game play.
The chat in game is supremely helpful. The community I’ve encountered that is growing up through the game are more than willing to give advice, answer questions, and share experiences. Also, there is a vibrant and active YouTube community, so finding tutorials is not difficult and can given you the foreknowledge you need to avoid frustration. A YouTuber by the name of MisterMoose has some of the most extensive and helpful.
I’m not wild about the controls. There are some subtleties in the casting that aren’t intuitive. However, trial and error is your friend. For me, a game that gives you the time and space to find your way is unique. Given how Fishing Planet is technically an Early Access game, that is, still in its beta stage, you can expect a lot of improvements to come.
In the meantime, I shall turn on Fishing Planet when I come home from work and play for a half-hour or so to clear my head and let the day’s annoyances melt away.
Some of the fish I’ve caught after advancing passed the first location to the next, a lake in upstate New York.
The game begins on a river bend in Missouri. Your options are picking up bass, catfish, crappie, and blue gill. To get out of Missouri, you have to develop a keen patience.
Largemouth Bass can apparently only be caught with particular lures but Young Largemouth Bass can be gotten with a bobber & bait.
When I returned to the New York state lake, I was able to catch some fish I’ve never heard of before–redfin pickerel, grass pickerel, and chain pickerel.
I learned that these fish are in the same family as the northern pike (one of the few fish in this game that I’ve actually caught in real life).
There are still four or five locations that I haven’t unlocked yet but I will. Catching a few more pike, some bass, and, if I’m lucky, trout will open up locales on the west coast, Florida, and North Carolina. As a simulation game, Fishing Planet threads the needle between pedagogy and realism.