Am I Addicted to Stardew Valley?
I am homesick for a country I can’t go back to. Between the throes of Brexit and the landslide of debt early repatriation would bury us in, I know I won’t be going home any time soon. For all its loveliness, Vancouver’s forest of glass towers will never feel like the woods and fields of England’s green and pleasant land. Although I have made new relationships, the established friends — some who I’ve known for more than 15 years — live just slightly too far in the future for a weekday Skype.
Adventures have moments of isolation, and this is mine.
Lately my evenings have been a fog of social media scrolling and YouTube comedy shorts, as a lethargic summer depression has settled in. My head has been too cloudy to write, and I haven’t mustered the motivation to exercise. This was my mindset when I decided to watch a James Veitch* parody review of Stardew Valley.
I don’t think Mr. Veitch meant to make an advert. The series highlights the absurdities of this strange pixel-art farming simulator, its small-town digital dramas over crop seasons, courtship, and village fetes. He points out how ridiculous it is for a farm to have its own theme song — and he’s right — but there was something so soothing about the music, so peaceful about the close-knit community and their hyper-local concerns. It was engaging enough to care about, but inconsequential if I gave up or fucked up.
I had to play it.
On Sunday afternoon, I parked myself in front of the PS4, expecting a couple of hours of distraction from the emotional anesthesia I’ve been living in. By 11 p.m., my arse was numb, but my mind was alive again.
I could tell you there’s more to it than foraging and farming, but at its heart, Stardew Valley is a pleasantly simple game. Collect things, build them, foster relationships with non-player characters (NPCs). Watch the days whisk by, as every 10 seconds of real-world time translates into 10 minutes in the Valley. Each day, filled with its own small but satisfying challenges, is as fleeting as a passing cloud. After a…