I played Stardew Valley to fill a void but now I’m a regular visitor

At the time, Stardew Valley was my attempt to fill the Animal Crossing void in my life. Fast forward to June 2020 and even with Animal Crossing released, I still find myself wandering back to the valley. In fact, I grew so fond of this game that I even named my New Horizon island ‘Stardew’.

But how and why do you end up moving to Stardew, you ask?

One day, while you’re at your soul destroying job at the Joja corporation, you come across a message from your late Grandfather and you discover that he has left you his plot of land in Stardew Valley. 

Oh Grandpa, you had me at ‘the burden of modern life’. 

With no hesitation, you trade your mundane life for something more fulfilling and start your new life as a farmer in Stardew Valley. Whilst farming has never appealed to me in real life, what this game offers is a slower pace and more meaningful way of living- something that many of us strive for in the real world.

Sense of community and kindness are highly valued in Stardew Valley, there is no surprise that the Community Centre in Pelican Town holds such importance throughout the game.  By donating bundles of resources, and with help from the mysterious Junimo creatures, you eventually bring the community centre back to life. Along with a great sense of accomplishment, completing these bundles also leads to new quests and features becoming available to you.

Meanwhile, Joja Mart continues to sit rather gloomily on the edge of town. This is a constant reminder of your old, more corporate ‘way of life’, and in Stardew, is another gameplay option that is offered to you too. In fact, this is one of the major mechanics of the game- which do you value more, the business needs of the Joja Mart or the Community Centre? Choose carefully, as picking one will lead to the erosion of the other.

What not to expect from Stardew:

  1. It’s not Animal Crossing and it’s not Harvest Moon, but it does offer the same sense of escapism and would definitely appeal to players of both of these games.
  2. Amazing graphics (in fact, they are far from it): but it’s ok, something about the old school pixelated graphics leaves you with a sense of nostalgia.
  3. Customisation: When it comes to customisation and finer details, you really aren’t given many options. In my opinion, Stardew makes up for this by giving you so much choice in other aspects of the game, from the quests to the relationship building. There are also a load of crafts and recipes that become available to you, which very quickly make you forget that you can’t change the style of your house, or colour of your horse.

What Stardew offers, that other games don’t:

Freedom

Despite your somewhat shortened day (as 1 in game day lasts a total of 14 minutes), you as a player choose what you want to prioritise and accomplish. Don’t want to stop and speak with the residents today? No problem. Still not milked those poor pixelated cows? Also fine. In fact, the only pressures you might face are passing out because you’ve not made it to bed by 2am, or missing out on an event because your crops haven’t grown in time. There is something very therapeutic about this, particularly if you face a lot of pressure in your real life.

Character inclusivity

The obvious example is that the game offers the option of same-sex marriage. This should just be a given, right? But not all games do, in fact Stardew was ahead of its time with this.

In comparison to Animal Crossing, relationship building is also much more realistic here. Unlike the friendly and cute villagers in AC, it takes time and perseverance to build relationships with these residents, who by nature are much more complex. Although it’s not obvious at first, through time, you learn that some of the residents’ face battles with mental health; alcoholism, PTSD and loneliness are just some of the struggles the game highlights.