You’ll find a lot of Stardew Valley guides on the internet if you look for them—and pretty much of them are useful—but if there is one thing I have taken away from Stardew Valley (and let’s face it there is a *lot* more than one thing), it’s that it is a game you can play however you want. While the game will gently nudge you into trying a little bit of everything–farming, mining, foraging, fishing, and combat–in the end it is up to *you* to shape your little corner of the world as you like it.
The story begins like this: deciding to eschew the confines and hassles of modern life, you move to Stardew Valley, where have inherited your grandfather’s farm. In every way, actually playing Stardew Valley feels like this: an escape from our often hectic, stressful lives to something more simple and perhaps, more meaningful. To me, this feels like the game’s underlying “hook. Sure it is satisfying to farm your land, forage, explore the mines… basically *do all the things* (and make some cool cash while doing so), but underneath all that lies something much greater.
The Social Game
One of the many options a player has in Stardew Valley is to meet NPCs, talk with them, give them gifts to gain “affection,” and perhaps even find romance. However, the more you invest in getting to know villagers, the more you you actually *get to know them*. That’s an oversimplification, I realize, but suffice it to say that not everything is as it first appears in Stardew Valley.
Characters may seem stereotypical on the surface, but take some time to get to know them and most are anything but. I don’t want to spoil too much but goddamn is it satisfying to get that kind of payoff for your investment.
And doesn’t this say a bit about our “real lives?” In real life, it’s only human to make judgements about others based on first impressions, but when we take the time to get to know a person, we discover people are often like Transformers: More than meets the eye.
That, of course, doesn’t mean that when we invest that time, we’re going to end up liking a person more. But at least we feel we have more information with which to make decisions about whether or not we want these people in our lives.
Stardew Valley drives that concept home perhaps more than any other game I have played. It manages to do so in such a simple, delightful way that you may not even realize it is happening. But maybe that’s the reason I like it so much: underneath it all this game is confirming a belief in people that we sometimes forget, but something we (hopefully) have known all along. Sometimes I can be a huge misanthrope, but Stardew Valley gently reaffirms that hopeful belief: people are worth it.
But again, I have chosen to invest a lot of my time in Stardew Valley’s social elements. You may play differently. And that is the beauty of this game. There’s no right or wrong way to play. I really cannot stress this enough.
Secrets and Mystery
Another thing Stardew Valley does well is inject a sense of mystery. Some of these you may discover through your social interactions with villagers, but others are somewhat omnipresent. For example, whenever it rains in Stardew Valley, you’ll hear some interesting sound effects: one of which I have determined to be frogs, but the others? I have no idea!
Players everywhere are speculating about the secrets of Stardew Valley–some of which have been discovered, but others remain (and may always remain) a mystery. This is another aspect of the game I find immensely satisfying. Guys, real life is mysterious! We may never know everything! And isn’t that kind of cool? Can it not be said that some things we may just not need to know? In the not-knowing, we are encouraged to come up with our own theories… or encouraged just accept that we may never know. This is the kind of thing that can be very personal but also universal. The kind of thing that humbles us and yet at its best can comfort us and build us up at the same time.
Bring on the mystery, I say. And while it’s sometimes difficult to accept for a completionist like me that I may never discover all of Stardew Valley’s secrets, I’m definitely enjoying the challenge and the journey.
I Really Love Stardew Valley
It’s quite possible you, as a player in Stardew Valley, may approach the game differently. It may affect you differently. You may not see all the things I see in Stardew Valley in the same way. In the end, I think that’s what this game is all about: you, your journey, and what you make of it.
So, sure, read those Stardew Valley guides. After all, I have found this guide immensely useful for knowing what to gift each villager. And the official wiki is chock-full of useful information about every element of the game. But please just don’t corner yourself too much into playing Stardew Valley as a game that you need to “win” or “complete.” As long as you play the way you like, I promise it will be worth it.
Stardew Valley is an indie game developed entirely by ConcernedApe (Eric Barone) and published by Chucklefish.
You can find out more about Stardew Valley here:
Official Website: http://stardewvalley.net/
Official Wiki: http://stardewvalleywiki.com/Stardew_Valley_Wiki