BY TANNER BENHAM: Stardew Valley proves video games aren’t a waste of time. The one-man developer of Stardew Valley, Eric Barone, also known as ConcernedApe, recently revealed that consoles will soon be getting the biggest update in the game’s history. With this great news, I decided to revisit the game on my Nintendo Switch. On the start screen, I was a bit baffled to see I put 169 hours into this game. I could’ve used that time doing something meaningful like writing a manuscript or exercising. Why did I put so much time into a single video game? Well, there are several reasons.
We’ll start with the narrative. The story begins with the player receiving a letter from their dying grandfather. The grandfather instructs the player to be patient about opening the letter. In his dying words, he says, “There will come a day when you feel crushed by the burden of daily life.” Who can’t relate after the year we just had? The game then cuts to the player working in a cubicle for a corporation called JojoMart. This is the global monopoly of the Stardew Valley world. The player, not satisfied with this soul-sucking position, stops working to pull the letter out of their desk. Grandfather has left the player a deed to a rundown farm that brought him happiness in his life and he gifts the land to the player. From there, the player is free to start their new life as a farmer in whatever way they see fit. They can focus on fishing, gathering and selling crops, fighting monsters in dungeons, or figuring out what kind of gifts the other characters love.
After a year like 2020, Stardew Valley allows gamers to visit a utopia. The town nearing the player’s farm is full of characters that have depth. The player can befriend them, help them with tasks, and learn about who they are. This is a bit more adult-oriented than other farming sims such as Animal Crossing. The townsfolk deal with very real issues ranging from fear of financial ruin to alcoholism. Many of the characters also have the option of becoming the player’s significant other which is one of my favorite aspects of the game. The player can find out which character best suits them as a potential partner in marriage (I recommend getting to know all the characters since this farmer is currently twice divorced). There are also many challenges related to the land. There are many rare fish to be caught and a mine with creatures that need to be slayed.
Challenges and conflict do reside in Stardew Valley as well. If there weren’t, the game wouldn’t be nearly as intriguing. This may be why I still go back to Stardew Valley and haven’t touched Animal Crossing in months. However, I feel more at peace playing Stardew Valley than any other game. Perhaps it’s because of the story that allows the player to quit their day job and pursue a life that’s closer to nature and more focused on building relationships.
I believe one of the most important goals in life is to find a sense of peace. Stardew Valley may be the best channel in video games to achieve this. I can’t say that spending almost 200 hours with this indie title was a waste of time. If anything, it saved me some money on therapy.