Why I’m Still Playing Stardew Valley

On February 26th, 2016, a man called Eric Barone (ConcernedApe), along with a publishing company called Chucklefish, released a little farming/adventure/simulator game called Stardew Valley. Nearly three hours later I have 221 hours logged in this game on Steam, both on my own and with friends, and not counting the hours I played without having SMAPI as the exe Steam uses.

Stardew Valley continues to be one of the most popular games on Steam and without a doubt some of the best $15 I’ve ever spent in my life. Barone has continued to devote himself to keeping the game updated; fixing bugs, adding new content (for FREE) and integrating multiplayer both for the PC version and now for the console releases. Add that to a number of popular mods that do everything from change sprites and portraits to add hundreds of new crops and artisan goods to the game and there’s endless hours of content for players to explore. Things can get a bit same-y when you’ve played the game so many times, but there’s plenty of things injecting new life into the game.

So why am I still playing this game so much three years later? The biggest reason is because it continues to be the most relaxing game I have ever come across. I dabbled with Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing before but could never really get into them. I spent several hundred hours playing Terraria after it came out, both by myself and with a good friend. Stardew Valley combines all three of them with absolutely zero pressure to do anything. Are there quests? Yeah. But you don’t have to do them. Don’t care about mining? You don’t have to do it. Using ore to upgrade your tools and make sprinklers makes your life easier, but it’s not necessary. You don’t even have to farm if you don’t want to. You can spend all day fishing. You can spend all day mining. You can spend all day foraging wild fruits and veggies from around the map. Don’t feel like talking to people? Don’t. Wanna marry someone? Make friends! For such a simple concept there is a surprising amount of freedom.

At first it felt a bit overwhelming. When I started I wanted to do everything and get everything I could done before the initial three year period was up (though you can continue playing far after that that is when the game officially “ends”). The more I played the more I realized I could play at my own pace. When I’m upset or stressed Stardew Valley is the game I play. As a person who cleans when she’s stressed and enjoys organizing things, using the Stardew Valley Planner tool to layout my farm and then transferring that plan into the game gives me a great deal of satisfaction. Growing plants and tending animals allows me to live a life that isn’t in the cards for me right now (I heartily wish to one day have a small garden plot with some chickens and maybe a couple goats). It takes me away from the corporate ruled capitalistic society we live in. Yeah you need to sell stuff to make money so you can buy things, but there’s no bills, no rent, no groceries. The money simply goes back into your farm. And if all you wanna do is build the perfect farm, there’s cheat console and item spawner mods that let you give yourself money, freeze time, set your relationship with the townsfolk to max, etc., and spawn any number of any item in the game.

Stardew Valley never leaves either of my computers. It’s a light enough game to run on my laptop when I’m not at home and is small enough to transfer files back and forth between it and my desktop if I’ve updated mods or if Steam hasn’t synced my save files. It is the only game that has remained on both of my computers and will continue to be so.

Barone recently split from Chucklefish to publish Stardew and his upcoming unannounced game on his own, but has promised a large, free content update for the game, as well as continuing to fix bugs on the console and app versions (with some help.) More information on that can be found on his website. Now go farm.

Kat Haas

Kat Haas is a recent History graduate living outside Philadelphia. When she's not worrying about getting into grad school she spends her time writing, or playing and modding several video game genres.

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